Bard, incl. learning support profile
College review by Diane Forman and Linda Kay (guest blogger)
I enjoyed a scenic drive to Annadale on the Hudson to visit Bard College with my colleague, Linda Kay on a beautiful spring day. As we exited the thruway, we were in awe of the beautiful views of the Hudson River and the Berkshire Mountains. After passing some farms, we felt like we were entering a retreat in the woods as we approached the campus with flowering apple trees, and sprawling lawns, over 500 acres. The buildings vary greatly from stone and ivy, to barns, to modern steel and glass. As the director of admissions said, their main street is the Hudson River. The school has a shuttle bus to get around the main and north campuses. They also shuttle students to the towns of Tivoli and Red Hook for the train station, CVS, restaurants and a movie theater.
As we sat in the waiting area of the admissions office for our tour to begin, the director of admissions came to speak to the visitors or as she said, “ This is the warm up act”. She had all the students introduce themselves and shared some words of wisdom for the impending tour.
- Learn what you cannot see.
- Do not focus on what can get you into college since you have already done that by now, focus on “ How do I get out of College”.
- What will the journey be like for four years?
Our tour guide, Kim, was an international student from Kingston, Jamaica and shared a wealth of information with us. She was a senior, math major and would like to apply to law school after taking a year off to study for the LSAT and the GMAT, as she hopes to study both law and business in graduate school. She started the Caribbean Club on campus. She said the environment forces you to be social because students are from all over. Bard attracts 20% of their students from California, 18% International, 27% from NY, and about 1/3 from the Northeast.
The Bard students appear to be an engaged, interesting group with the vibe being relaxed and artsy. Students are “expected” to be engaged and not only in the classroom. You see students riding bikes to get around campus and others walking with their musical instruments. As we walked through the main dining room, Bob Dylan music was playing. Music is a large part of the entertainment at Bard with a variety of student bands performing at the SMOG on weekends. According to Kim, one of the best things about Bard is that her professors not only know her name, but they know her as a person. Class sizes are small, with an average class being about 17 students, and classrooms are arranged boardroom style to encourage participation. Professors are very accessible and go out of their way to help students. Bard’s curriculum is heavy on the reading and writing requirements. First year students must arrive on campus three weeks early for the Language and Thinking Program; a pass/fail course. They return to campus three weeks before spring semester for the Citizen’s Science Program, an additional course, focused on infectious disease, that was added two years ago as the president believes all students should be able to be versed in current science findings. Because of these two requirements for freshman, it is not possible for Bard to accept transfer students mid-year. Freshman are also required to take First Year Seminar in Literature and Philosophy, which is very heavy in reading and writing. Students typically take fours courses a semester, each course being four credits. Classes are small and often set up for discussion style learning.
Choosing a major at Bard is a process called Moderation. During the second semester of sophomore year, students must write two papers to explain what they have done so far in the major and what they expect to do with the major when they graduate. There is a third requirement that is dependent on the area of study to prove to the faculty panel that the major is a good fit. For example, if a student is declaring a dance moderation, they will be required to dance. If they are declaring an anthropology moderation, they will be asked to read a paper and analyze it. The process is very self-reflective for the students.
Bard offers many options of study abroad, basically students can study anywhere around the world. They have their own campuses in Manhattan, Berlin and Russia. They have a partnership with Al-Quds, an Arab University dedicated to educating the Palestinians. The LONGY School of Music in Boston is now a part of Bard.
Bard offers needs based financial aid. Approximately 65-70% of the students receive aid and the average package is 28K.
Admissions are highly competitive and looked at holistically. They are a test optional school but if the student’s test scores are stronger than the GPA, it was suggested that they submit their scores. The personal statement is an important component of the application; they are interested in learning how the student can articulate what they are thinking. Interviews are offered, and considered in the admissions process, although not required. Bard offers an Immediate Decision Plan (IDP) to 180 students. During the three weekends prior to Thanksgiving, students can register for IDP. They come to campus and take a seminar with their fellow candidates taught by a Bard professor. Students are asked to read two essays; most recently they have been focused on math and science in the liberal arts context. They also meet with an admissions counselor for an interview. The IDP is recommended for strong students who are considering Bard as a top choice, and they will be notified the week following their visit if they have been accepted.
In summary, it was striking that the administration at Bard is innovative and focused on keeping the students engaged and prepared for the world upon graduation. It is a great choice for a student interested in a combination of the arts, sciences or humanities and wants to be stimulated by learning both in and out of the classroom.
Special addendum: disabilities program
Amy Shein is the Disabilities Support Coordinator, and is the only staff member for disabilities services at Bard. There is no learning specialist on staff. Amy has a background in both psychology and education, and works part-time, five days/week. Amy meets with students individually to discuss their needs, and reviews their documentation. Accommodations can include extended time, distraction-free test environment, permission to use laptops, alternate clarification of assignments, and note takers, who are other students in the class. Professors also put up the notes on Moodle, sometimes alleviating the need for a note taker. Amy has several smart pens for loan as well.
There are students with Asperger’s at Bard, and those who are most successful are aware and accepting of their diagnosis, are willing to take guidance, are able to participate appropriately in class, can live with a roommate and become engaged in campus life.
The Learning Commons (tutoring center) offers services to all students, and is staffed by a director and associate director. Peer tutors who have been selected by faculty provide most of the content tutoring. There are also Writing Tutors who go through a training course, and some writing fellows who are upperclassmen. Some writing courses require students to meet with the writing tutor for a certain amount of time each semester. There is drop-in help for writing seven days a week, and also study rooms for math and science, where students can go to work with a tutor and sometimes a professor is available.
There are a fair amount of psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists in the area, but if a student needs specialized academic support or coaching independent of campus, it is very hard to find in the surrounding community. Bard is a pretty independent place where a lot of responsibility is put on the students, so students need to be able to handle the academic demands.