College review by Lisa Bleich
Union is a very pretty, campus with built in the shape of a U with building surrounding a large green in the center of campus. Union was the first non-denominational college, which is illustrated by the Noll Chapel in the center of campus. The chapel was designed to represent the three religions. The stained glass windows represent Christianity, the Hebrew lettering on the roof represent Judaism and the shape looks like a Mosque to represent Islam. Union also has its own eight acre garden on campus.
Union was also the first liberal arts college to offer engineering and while the curriculum boasts all of the standard liberal arts majors, there is an emphasis on the STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) integrated with liberal arts that infuse the campus. However, psychology is one of the most popular majors. Union also boasts a strong music program and welcomes performing arts supplements.
Students are a combination of preppy and down-to-earth sporting sweats, jeans, wellies, and flannel shirts. The students have a strong balance between work and play and are active on campus in a variety of activities. The Greek system dominates the social life with 60% of eligible students participating. (Students do not rush until sophomore year). The college has made a concerted effort to introduce non-alcohol related social activities through the Minerva houses. All freshmen are randomly assigned to Minerva that houses a lounge, kitchen and freshman seminar classroom. Students have the opportunity to take on leadership within the house and plan events. They can also live in these houses when they are upperclassmen. However, it is not clear how much students actually participate in these houses.
Students were articulate and identified how Union had opened their minds and showed them how they can make a difference. One student talked about how he came in very focused on being a surgeon and while he is still pre-med, he also learned about environmental health issues and would like to expand his interest to also get a Masters in Public Health. Another student talked about his work in increasing AIDS awareness on campus.
Schenectady is an old manufacturing town that has seen better days and is somewhat sketchy, however there is an effort to revitalize the area. The upperclassmen talked about several eateries that have Karaoke and other events that attract college students.
Union offers $10,000 in merit scholarships to the top 10% of its incoming class. 60% of the students receive financial aid. The average debt per student upon graduation is $24,000.
One major distinction for Union is that it runs on the trimester system with three 10-week quarters. As a result students take only three classes per quarter. (With the exception of engineers, who have to take one quarter with four classes.) Students appreciate having a fewer classes to concentrate on. They also get a 6-week winter break, which allows kids to get an internship or take a three-week mini term abroad.
Union is a great school for students who want to engage in the world, want a liberal arts environment with strong STEM majors and an active Greek life.