Bellarmine University

Today we visited Bellarmine (pronounced Bellarmun) University. As I noted yesterday, they have a beautiful small campus, about 5 minutes from our hotel. It was built in the 1950s, According to their website, the campus is all of 144 acres and 24 buildings, 138 full-time faculty, and a total enrollment of 3,132. You can see pictures of their beautiful campus here.

I knew nothing about this school going in, and I was impressed. They are in the top 100 of private universities in the US (#12 regional university per US News and World Reports). They are a dry campus. They have no real fraternities and sororities (there are two greek honor societies that do service). They are a non-smoking campus. They are strong academically. They are affordable: about $39K/year before financial aid ($29.1K tuition, $1.4K fees, $8.8K room and board), and they give a lot of merit-based aid. There is very little crime in the area. There are strong relationships between the faculty and the students. Although students are required to live on campus the first year or two, they are permitted to have cars on campus. We visited a dorm room, and it was very nice and spacious.

Although they are obstensibly a Catholic university, they no longer have any association with the church. There is no required church attendance, although there are two general theology courses required (such as comparative religions). They are only about 50% catholic.

They have an early schedule, starting in August and ending in May before the Kentucky Derby.

There is the really neat Bardsdale Road corridor nearby, which Erin described as “Davis plopped down in Kentucky”. Eclectic. Weird. Great food (we had a wonderful gluten-free lunch at Ramsi’s Cafe)

We met with one of the history professors later in the day. They have a small history/poli-sci department; perhaps 10-12 faculty. They seem enthusiastic about what they teach. There are requirements to do history research and internship, including long papers.

The overall 4-year retention rate is 67%.

If there is one drawback to this school, it is diversity (although not for their lack of trying). Only 10% are students of color, and 2% are international. For first-time freshman, those numbers of 12% students of color, 1% international. Most of the students are from the midwest (KY, IN, OH, IL, MO). 2% are international, and 6% are from other states. Supposedly, a lot are from private schools. This would be culture shock for Erin.

What are my thoughts on this? In some ways, this would be the right place. I think Erin would excel in the smaller environment; she wouldn’t become the lost cog in the sea of students. She could become active in a large variety of groups, and work in their black box theatre. She also wouldn’t be overrun by the party and drinking atmosphere at Tulane or Emory (or many other schools). She wouldn’t have to deal with the cigarette smoke that is so prevalent in the south. They do appear to be academically challenging, although that’s hard to determine beforehand. They are also within a few hours drives of relatives and friends in either Nashville or St. Louis. On the negative side, they are lesser-known (that doesn’t make them bad), a bit less diverse than we might like, and I’m not super happy with their 4-year retention rate (67%) or their 4-year graduation rate (52%-medium) [6-year graduation rate (65%)]. Social sciences is also a very small percentage of their degrees, about 5%. It also seems not to get good reviews from students (whereas Tulane gets positive reviews, as does Emory, Washington University, Reed, Univ of Portland, UCSB, and Occidental, but not Lewis & Clark).

Tomorrow will be touring Louisville. Most likely, we’ll hit the Speed Museum, possibly the Frazier History Museum, and who knows what else.

ETA: Dinner was at Naked Pizza, which has gluten-free pizza. Dessert, which we ate before dinner, was at Graeters Ice Cream.


Hello, Slugger…

As in Louisville Slugger, that is.

Today was a travel day, Nashville to Louisville. The day started out with another severe thunderstorm, just as we were about to leave the hotel. During a break we loaded the car and left, and attempted to see the Opry hotel. I say “attempted” because they were charging $18 for self-park, and given that the Opry Mills parking was still closed, we decided it wasn’t worth $18 to see a hotel lobby, even if it was spectacular. After that, it was off to the Hermitage. The tour there was good, but definately with tinted glasses—there was no heavy discussion of the controversy over his marriage to Rachael, his treatment of the Indians, and how he was a mean mo-fo after Rachael died.

After that, it was on to Louisville. This was a relatively smooth drive, other than some traffic as we approached the city.

After we got to the hotel, we did a test drive to Bellarmine. They have a beautiful small campus, about 5 minutes from our hotel. It was built in the 1950s, According to their website, the campus is all of 144 acres and 24 buildings, 138 full-time faculty, and a total enrollment of 3,132. Erin says that’s the size of her high school! She’s on the upper end of who they admit, which could bode well for merit scholarships if the small size is right for her. It doesn’t look like a drinking campus with a large greek life, which is one of the turn-offs for Emory and Tulane.

Louisville is a small city—16th largest in the nation. We drove around for a bit, seeing the Bardsdale Road corridor, which turns out to be in walking distance from Bellarmine. We also drove through downtown Louisville, which is nice, but deserted on Sunday night. We ended up eating dinner at Marks Feed Store BBQ and getting a FroYo at a place over on Bardsdale Road.

Tomorrow is the actual visit to Bellarmine.


Interstitial Day

Wikipedia defines Interstitial as “an empty space or gap between spaces full of structure or matter.” Today was an interstitial day: a day between our cities of substance, in terms of our college tour. We left Atlanta this morning, and are spending the evening in Nashville, TN, before going on to Louisville KY tomorrow. So what did we see today…

After leaving Atlanta, our first stop was Marietta GA, where we found the gravesite of Mary Phagan, the young girl killed by Jim Conley in 1913 (a fact not discovered until after her Jewish employer, Leo Frank, was accused, convicted, and lynched).

From there we went to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. We saw a demonstration shooting of a civil war cannon (boy, those are loud), and learned a bit about the battle.

From there it was on to Nashville, driving through an extremely severe storm—so severe that traffic on the freeway was pulling over to stop and wait it out. It was as bad as Tule Fog. The weather eventually cleared up, and we made it to Nashville… just in time to see the Parthenon before it closed. This is a fascinating building. It was built originally out of plaster for the world’s exposition in Nashville (just like the Palace of Arts in San Francisco or the Jefferson Memorial in St. Louis), and then rebuilt out of stone. It now houses an art museum, along with a gigantic statue of Athena, just like the real Parthenon.

Lastly, we had dinner at Demos in downtown Nashville, a wonderful steak and spaghetti restaurant (that is remarkably affordable). What made the dinner even more special was being able to see two cousins we first met at a family reunion in Nashville in 2007. Jim and Bernita are a blast to be around—I wished they lived in LA so we could see them more.

Tomorrow, we will be visiting The Hermitage in Nashville and taking a quick look at the Opry hotel before we drive on to Louisville.


Touring Atlanta

Today was a day for touring Atlanta. We went three places:

Tomorrow, it is off to Nashville for an interstitial day. On the way out, we plan to try to visit the grave of Mary Phagan [Historic Marker] (we’ve been listening to Parade, and this is connected to the Leo Frank Trial (more info)). It took a bit of searching, but I’ve found a map to it; I’ve also found the location of the lynching site—I’m thinking we’ll leave a stone or two there (he’s buried in New York). We also plan to visit the Parthenon in Nashville, and have dinner at Demos.


Emory University

Today, we visted Emory University (the picture to the right is a view of the university from the top of the library building). Emory is a mid-size liberal arts university just outside of downtown Atlanta; it originated in Oxford GA where there is still a two-year liberal arts branch of Emory.

Emory is a beautiful campus, with lots of modernized buildings. They have an extensive program, heavily funded by Coca-Cola and the families therebehind. In fact, non-Coke products cannot be sold on campus, and the quad is purportedly shaped like a Coke bottle. Their unofficial mascot is Dooley, the ghost of a man accidentially bottled in 1925.*

(* OK, I made that last part up. But Dooley is real.)

But for all their strengths, Emory is not on the favorites list, but it remains on the plausible list. It’s hard to put a finger on a single fact why. There are clues, however. First, when they discussed financial aid, they emphasized need-based first, not merit-based (in fact, they seemed to discourage thoughts of merit-based aid). They emphasized the Greek culture on campus, noting that 33% join fraternities and sororities (a much higher percentage than on many classes). In fact, they noted that the greek organizations throw events that others may attend. This gave my daughter the impression that Emory was a marble house: impressive facilities, but lacking warmth.

Emory has some differences in Core Curriculum (see in their catalog) when compared to Tulane’s core curriculum: they require multiple physical education classes, and have a strong emphasis on writing. What was more telling, to us, was what was missing in comparison to Tulane. There were no requirements for public service. There were no requirements for interdisciplinary studies.

Later in the day, we met with one of the history professors. This went over well, and gave us a positive image of the campus (which is what maintains it on the “potential” list). We still have two more universities to visit on this trip: Bellarmine and Wash U. August will bring visits to Lewis & Clark, Univ of Portland, and Reed. In Southern California, we still need to schedule visits to UCSB and Occidential (and perhaps Pomona).


Georgia, Georgia

Well, we’re in Atlanta. I’d say “safely”, but Atlanta is currently under a severe thunderstorm watch. Luckily, we got into the hotel before the rain started, unlike in New Orleans.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning, which was this morning in New Orleans. We had coffee/tea at PJs near Tulane, and then hit the road. We went out I-10 across eastern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi, turning N when we hit Mobile. We went up I-65, and saw my first indications that Cleartype had invaded Alabama. I do like how Alabama signs overpasses: with the name of the road on the overpass and the milage (with an interstate logo) from the start in the state. We had BBQ at a little local restaurant about 40 minutes out of Montgomery. In Montgomery, we visited the First White House of the Confederacy and the State Archives. Getting back on the road, we proceeded east on I-85, switching to I-285 in Atlanta. Georgia seems to use an odd modified font on their signs: not cleartype, but not the normal fat FHWA font.

We got it just as the lighting started. We still need to get dinner, and do a test drive to Emory. Tomorrow will be our visit to Emory.


As They Say on Animal House: “Food Fight”

My daughter and I mostly get along. Occasionally, we have our little disagreements. Little as we each become a little bull-headed, expecting the other to see the error of their ways, insisting that we are right. As I said, a little tiff.

Usually, it is about food, and usually, it is when one of us is too hungry. Yesterday’s tiff was about whether to try to find food on the Tulane campus to test their food service. After our tiff and a bit of a drive in our huffmobiles, we ended up walking through the commons to see what they offered, having a smoothie, but having lunch elsewhere.

Tonight’s tiff was about where to eat dinner. My daughter wanted soul food, cheap, in New Orleans. I had a headache and didn’t want to drive having taken a muscle relaxant. Thus, we were looking for cheap soul food near the St. Charles streetcar. Turns out: no such thing exists. There’s expensive N.O. seafood or cajun. There’s soul food all the way out in Metrarie. After another drive around the block in our huffmobiles, we ended up getting a recommendation for Voodoo BBQ. Not great, but not bad either.

Hopefully, we’ve made up. We’ll see if we can find soul food in Montgomery AL as we drive to Atlanta tomorrow. I’ve told Erin Atlanta should be a more soul food town. N.O. is more seafood, cajun, and creole.


She Made Me Do It

Just because my daughter couldn’t eat it, I just had to have some beignets at Cafe Du Monde. She just made me.

Today, having seen Tulane, we explored New Orleans. We walked Lafayette Cemetary in the Garden District, visited the WWII museum, and wandered the French Quarter and the French Market. I had a seafood pizza and Erin had catfish. We ate pralines and beignets (well, I ate the latter). We came back to the hotel with blisters, still full from lunch.

Tomorrow, it is off to Atlanta, and our visit to Emory.