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Skidmore’s special pre-professional niche and attitude
It’s unusual for a liberal arts college to have a business major, which Skidmore most definitely does, but then again Skidmore isn’t a typical liberal arts institution when it comes to its academic menu—a mix of traditional majors in the sciences and humanities with an interdisciplinary flair, preprofessional programs, and rich opportunities in the arts.
After all, the College got its start in 1903 as an “industrial club” providing practical instruction in business and other “industrial arts” leading to gainful employment and service. It wasn’t until 1922 that Skidmore became an accredited four-year institution, and by that time its DNA as a place that honors both the “mind and the hand,” i.e., academic theory and practice, was firmly established. (For a broad overview of academics at Skidmore, click here.)
Business: Skidmore’s most popular major
Today, business is the most popular area of study just ahead of English and psychology, with 12% of the Class of 2013 majoring in it and another 10% adding it as a minor—nearly a quarter of the class. Skidmore’s Management & Business Department is perhaps best known for its iconic, introductory course MB 107, which culminates with student groups presenting business strategies to real-life executives, getting grilled in a Q&A segment, and then receiving a grade on the spot. Each semester, more than 100 students participate in an experience that now bonds nearly 7,000 Skidmore alumni, a number of whom return as executives. For an insider’s look into the presentations, see this compelling video:
Another valuable, real-world experience is the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition, which awards prizes valued at more than $25,000 to the students (or team of students) who write the best business plans. The prizes are intended to act as a catalyst to help students start a new business or to assist in the development of an existing business. The 2013 winner, Sam Schultz ’13, an Asian studies and international affairs double major, launched his new business company, Summer Destinations, this fall in Beijing. For insight into this entrepreneurial competition, now in its fourth year, check out this video:
For a snapshot of where business majors from the most recent graduating classes have landed, click here.
Exercise Science major “way ahead of the curve”
Housed in the Williamson Athletics Center—until the new Center for Integrated Sciences is built—Skidmore’s exercise science major is an equally unusual major, with only a handful of liberal arts colleges in the country offering it, according to professor of health sciences Pat Fehling. Each year, roughly 20 students graduate with a degree in exercise sciences.
“When it comes to health sciences, we are way ahead of the curve,” says Fehling. “We are certainly mindful of career preparation for our students, but our emphasis is on the science of health, the fundamentals. We do far more faculty-student collaborative research than other schools with this major. It is our strength and our hallmark. It is our philosophy that the line between our research and our teaching is blurred. We definitely teach through our research.”
And that research is more than just an academic exercise. This December, for example, Jonathan R. Brestoff Parker ’08, a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and his mentor, professor of health sciences Thomas H. Reynolds, were awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,598,150 for use of an antioxidant compound that shows promise in the treatment of obesity and related disorders, such as type-2 diabetes. Their discovery that treating obese mice with an antioxidant called MnTBAP decreases obesity and improves type-2 diabetes through significant weight loss took place when Brestoff engaged in collaborative summer research with Reynolds. For more details, click here.
Faculty Student Research Triples
Annually, nearly 500 Skidmore students (20% of the student body) engage in research with a faculty mentor, including more than 80 in the Faculty Student Summer Research Program. For more on the summer research program, which encompasses a myriad of academic disciplines and has tripled in student participation since 2000, click here.
Social Work and Education Studies
In the human services arena, Skidmore is the only college in its peer set and one of a limited number of liberal arts colleges in New York State to offer a social work major. The program has been nationally accredited by the Council on Social Work Education since 1983.
During the spring semester of their senior year, social work majors complete SW 382, Social Work Field Practicum. The Council on Social Work Education mandates that students complete a minimum of 400 hours in the field practicum. Over the course of the semester, our students work an average of 30-32 hours per week in an approved human services agency for a total of 425-450 hours. See placements from the Class of 2013.
Skidmore also provides a major in education studies, an innovative program premised on a constructivist view of education with social justice as a central goal, that leads to initial certification in New York State for grades 1-6. There are also opportunities for students to work and conduct research in Skidmore’s Early Childhood Center lab school, housed across the hall from the Education Department. Research is part of the Center’s regular program and focuses largely on evaluating the best educational practices for young children.
Unique offerings: IGR and arts administration
Skidmore also boasts two unusual minors—intergroup relations (IGR), a dialogue-based pedagogy that seeks to bridge inter- and intra-racial gaps in understanding, and arts administration.
Skidmore in 2012 became the first college or university in the country to make IGR a minor, making it a “leader and model in the study of race, racism, and racial identity in the U.S.,” according to sociology professor Kristie Ford, the program director.
Arts administration and management programs are chiefly found at several large public universities, according to program director and professor David Howson. With the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery and the Arthur Zankel Music Center, Skidmore is uniquely positioned to be one of the few small liberal arts colleges to offer such a program.
The groundbreaking Tang
Built in 2000, the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery has developed into a groundbreaking center of creativity that draws thousands of visitors to its shows and events. Considered a national model, the Tang’s designation as a teaching museum signals Skidmore’s intent to make its exhibitions and museum use by students and faculty a significant aspect of the interdisciplinary undergraduate experience.
The sound of Zankel
The most dramatic addition to the campus is the Arthur Zankel Music Center, a state-of-the-art facility that offers fully wired classrooms and soundproof practice studios and fosters the development of interdisciplinary presentations for its 600-seat Ladd Concert Hall. Zankel is the headquarters of a precedent-setting partnership with Carnegie Hall, attracts Grammy-winning record producers, and presents a schedule of renowned guest artists from around the world.
The First-Year Experience in London
Next fall, 36 students from Skidmore's Class of 2018 will have the opportunity to spend their first semester of college in London, one of the world's great cities. In addition to allowing students to enjoy the historical and cultural riches of England's capital, the First-Year Experience in London enables them to begin working toward their Skidmore degrees, helps prepare them for the College’s academic challenges and opportunities, and builds strong connections and friendships among the participants.
Now in its 14th year, FYE London was the first program of its kind when it was established in 2001. And while some other colleges have since jumped on the bandwagon, Skidmore is the only one that sends two veteran Skidmore faculty to teach first-year seminars and offer overall guidance.
SEE-Beyond: clarifying post-college goals
Italy. China. India. Guatemala. Nicaragua. Destinations for an exotic summer vacation? Not exactly. These are just some of the locations where Skidmore students spent the summer, working and learning, as participants in Skidmore’s SEE-Beyond program, launched in 2012 with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Officially called “Summer Educational Experiences—Learning Beyond Campus,” the program offers a modern take on one of Skidmore’s founding tenets: education that combines “the mind and hand.”
Successful applicants—20 or so annually—receive $4,000 grants to support a wide array of summer learning opportunities. Says Corey Freeman-Gallant, associate dean of the faculty and professor of biology, “Putting students in a ‘real-world’ experience enables them to strengthen the skills that make the liberal arts important: they’re communicating and collaborating, they’re thinking analytically, independently, and creatively, and they’re learning to lead.”
Preprofessional and cooperative programs
Speaking of preparing for the future, Skidmore offers a number of preprofessional and cooperative programs in business, engineering, and health:
- premedical and prelaw advising;
- 4+1 M.B.A. programs (Clarkson, RIT, Union Graduate College);
- Whitman M.B.A. Advantage Program, 4+1 M.S.A., and 4+1 M.S.F. programs (Syracuse University);
- 3+2 dual-degree engineering programs (Clarkson, Dartmouth, RPI);
- 4+2 M.S. in occupational therapy and 4+3 doctorate in physical therapy (Sage Graduate School);
- B.S.N. (NYU School of Nursing—15 or 18 months), and
- M.S. in accountancy (Wake Forest University)