Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kenyon, Wooster, Denison -- three colleges in three days. Or something.

The very generous folks at Kenyon College invited the younger teen to visit this past weekend -- they were buying the airfare -- so we took 'em up on their offer. Now she had also applied to The College of Wooster and Denison University (which I keep misspelling "Dennison"). Wooster had sent some very positive correspondence, so I contacted them to arrange a visit. Denison didn't say squat to us, so we ended up doing a drive-by this afternoon.

Here's my summary of the experience. We corresponded with the Kenyon folks to say, gee, it would be great if you could book the return flight for a couple of days later so we could look around the area? But they couldn't do that (policy reasons) so I ended up buying a sorta redundant ticket. The weekend at Kenyon was going to be over roughly at lunch time on Monday, so I flew out Sunday afternoon -- Southwest Airlines. Unfortunately, due to ATC delays, I didn't get to Columbus that night, instead spending a short night near Chicago MDW. Fortunately, I called the hotel chain as soon as my flights were arranged, and they switched my reservation from Columbus to Chicago without penalty.

Sleep Inn Chicago MDW

The hotel, a Sleep Inn, was fine. Service was friendly and efficient. (I called when I got to Midway, and asked about food. Georgine told me there was food nearby but oops, Sunday night, everything closed at 10pm.) My room cost about $98 (vs $94 for Columbus). A pile of hotels (Holiday Inn/Express, Marriott/Courtyard, Hilton Garden Inn, etc.) constitute the Midway Hotel Center or some such, and they share a shuttle -- which was quite full at about 11pm Sunday. I got up a little before six (Central time) in order to catch the 6:28am shuttle for a 7:45am flight. (The alternative, spending the night at home, would have got me to Columbus about 3pm, which was might have been OK -- but it assumed no further delays. That assumption I wasn't willing to make.)

The Sleep Inn's breakfast officially starts at 6:30am, so I completely missed it, instead opting for the Maxwell House coffee in the room. This was a mistake; I drank maybe half of it, and by the time I started looking for where to dump the rest, the shuttle arrived. I got my bag checked in, then found an airport men's room to pitch my now-cold cup of mud. The flight to Columbus was on time and uneventful, and I got a rental car (more on that here) and drove out to Kenyon, making just a couple of wrong turns.

Kenyon College

The sky was gray in Gambier, and little white flakes fell from the sky occasionally. I parked in a 2-hour spot and got a cup of decaf at Middle Ground, which has free open wi-fi. Pretty soon I got a phone call: did I want to hear the chamber singers? Sure. they were having a rehearsal. The younger teen introduced me to her new friend Rebeccah from Pennsylvania, and off we went.

About fifty beautiful young people sang with precision and joy at this rehearsal. Not to say they all looked like fashion models, but their love of singing and their enjoyment of what they were doing in the moment -- these made them beautiful to me. They sounded great, too. The director explained afterwards that one must audition and be accepted to sing with this group.

The food at Kenyon was fine, and the dining experience was marvelous. Kenyon has gorgeous buildings and the campus itself is very pretty. It's in the middle of, well, nowhere, which lends it a sort of rural charm. There is no McDonald's, Burger King, or any other chain in Gambier. You won't find BofA or Citi there either -- there is the "People's Bank" (sounds like something from the 1960s!), the Village Inn, the bookstore, etc.

The younger teen sat in on a class, while I returned to Middle Ground for some more cyber activity -- writing snarky emails to people at the office (my boss, for example, wanted to know about requirements definition for a certain tool -- i told her that some wacko wrote something up about six months ago, that wacko being me). While there, a senior talked to me about why Kenyon was such a great school: great profs, diversity of students (by which he meant they are not all northeastern athletes who drink beer), good friends, etc.

I excused myself to meet the younger teen back at the admissions office for our tour. Riley did the honors; he was charming and knowledgeable. There was an art building, which we drove around and found (maybe) -- at least we found a building with some art stuff in it, and when we went upstairs we found some eye-stinging fumes (acid?). We gave up and got back into the car for the drive to Wooster.

Days Inn Wooster -- look for the Cleveland Clinic

We got to Wooster, but I missed a turn. Eventually we figured it out and went back, but when we made the correct turn, the Days Inn was not visible to us. This was the Days Inn Wooster (North), 789 East Milltown. We saw a bunch of chain restaurants (their names fell out of my head already), then turned around and drove back... I parked on a residential street and called them. A pleasant young lady answered, telling me that they were in the same driveway as the Cleveland Clinic.

Elizabeth checked us in -- I said we were visiting the College of Wooster, to get the discount (it was $55 for a room with two queen beds). Once we were in our room, Elizabeth called to ask if everything was all right. A while later, when I went out to ask, she gave me some detailed information about dinner. We ended up eating at the Green Leaf, down the road we came in on.

The Days Inn has a pool -- hotel pool, not a lap swimming pool. It was fine. The room was also serviceable. We were in 111, which apparently shares a wall with the vending machine room (I sometimes heard the refrigeration equipment cycle on and off). We got a fair amount of light even with the curtains drawn -- from the parking-lot lights I think. On the plus side, the shower/tub and toilet are behind a closing door, but the sink is in the main part of the room. This allowed the younger teen to brush her teeth while I was taking a shower or vice versa.

They have waffles -- the 2½-minute ones where you pour the batter into the iron and flip it. Their coffee was adequate, and they had instant oatmeal too, besides English muffins, bagels, and those evil sweet-roll things. cold cereals too. We checked out and drove to the college.

the College of Wooster

We found the admissions office without any trouble, and Melanie greeted us. She is a very friendly and enthusiastic, but not pushy -- she obviously loves her job and does it very well. She had a little paperwork for the "prospie" (prospective student, viz., the younger teen), then one of the aides escorted her to an art history class. Meanwhile, I had a great conversation with an admissions officer. He was very enthusiastic about the college but gave me what impressed me as an unvarnished opinion of the school's programs, describing various things as tradeoffs. For example, the first year seminar, he said, was somewhat uneven -- some profs do a terrific job getting the students engaged, etc., whereas others don't provide as rich an experience for the kids. I got the impression that the departments are rather autonomous -- this is a tradeoff! -- but a consequence of this is that not every department does a great job in promotion and advocacy....

The younger teen returned from her class (art history) and we went on a campus tour. Our guides, Ramsey and Max, were enthusiastic boosters of the school. One point came up: the disappearance of an unattended computer from the library. Riley at Kenyon had told us that he'd left his computer unattended in the library for seven hours (this wasn't on purpose) but it hadn't ever disappeared. Wooster is in the town of Wooster, whereas Gambier is basically owned by Kenyon.

We cut the campus tour short because of an appointment we thought we'd had with an art professor -- but due to a logistical snafu (the prof is about to go on leave and her email saying "no can do" apparently disappeared) we ended up imposing on another faculty member, the current department chair as it turns out! He chatted with us for a bit, and then offered to take us on a tour of the building. The facilities looked fine.

Food at Wooster is fine, but the overall dining experience lags Kenyon's -- partly because the dining hall is not as gorgeous. One plus: we found a campus humor paper -- a single sheet, double-sided -- it was kinda crass but not surprising for an unofficial college paper. pretty funny, actually. (and if you ever see it, any respect you might have had for me will be history.)

We visited an art exhibit in the on-campus museum, and then went to the philosophy department, where we had a lively conversation with Professor Thomson. We talked about independent study and how that might work in a double-major (philosophy and...); he also filled me in on what's been happening in the world of moral philosophy since the 1970s. We walked back to Admissions and said good-bye to Melanie. She handed us printed directions to Denison (90 minutes!) and we were on our way.

Denison University

We got to Denison in just about 90 minutes. the campus looked pretty big -- it's on a hill. The buildings have a red(ish) brick motif. We saw the drawing/painting studio, which seemed barely adequate. The student population, or the small subset we saw (it was about 4:45pm by then), seemed rather preppy-ish.

We walked around and took a few photos, then headed back to the car (parked in a visitor parking garage). On our way we saw the career center, and a survey of 2008 grads by major. Not a single art major appeared on the list. There were a few art history graduates, who had replied they were going to grad school. But no art or art history majors getting jobs after college. Overall we were not impressed.

Denison also didn't give the impression of being very interested; they haven't sent an acceptance letter, they didn't invite the younger teen there for a visit, etc. We got back in the car and drove to our hotel in Heath, OH.

Holiday Inn Express, Heath, OH

This hotel costs more than the Days Inn -- eightysomething vs $55. Unfortunately the pool is out of order. (Good thing I got my swim in last night.) But the room is nicer; everything is upscale compared to where I spent the last two nights. That plus $2.50 will get you a short latte at *$, but anyway it's nice. We're leaving before 8am Eastern time tomorrow, but we'll have time to sample their breakfast here.

We're ready to head home.

Update: Wednesday morning 2/25

We turned off the lights a little after 10pm (Eastern), having set the alarm clock for 7am. But there was an odd noise in the room. I wondered if something hadn't agreed with the younger teen's digestive tract, but when I sat up in bed, she asked me, "What is that noise?"

Investigation revealed that the sound (which to my mind seemed like that of a mentally retarded squirrel) was coming from the 'fridge, a black Tatung. Unplugging it didn't help. I lay it down on its side, which did seem to help (it was still unplugged).

I told the front desk about it the next morning. "Those are brand-new refrigerators, too. We'll definitely look into it. And I'll take $10 off your bill."

That works for me. We went to breakfast, where besides the usual cereals and toast, they supplied biscuits and gravy, bacon and eggs. The eggs were a sort of pre-fab patty with what looked like a half-slice of American cheese, folded crispy-taco style in the egg. But it was bacon and eggs for all that. Coffee in the breakfast room was fine.

Another thing about the room: besides having everything be nicer-looking than at the other places I stayed on this trip, there were pictures on the wall. The younger teen noticed that the two pictures were identical. They were apparently prints of a geometric/abstract design.

1 comment:

Top Shelf said...

Just curious, where did you child wind up going to college? My daughter may wind up at Denison (she liked it better than Kenyon when we visited last August). Unlike your experience, Denison has shown my daughter crazy amounts of love. Maybe they've warmed up since 2009?