College Profile: Colgate

Colgate is indeed named for the family with the toiletries empire. They have a long association with the school, which was founded in 1819. It didn’t go coed until 1970, which is par for the course for schools of its age. There was a lot of merging and de-merging with other local seminaries and universities. It started out Baptist and has also gone through several name changes. One of those splits created the University of Rochester.

The liberal arts college (yes it’s called a university), with enrollment just under 3,000, is located in a sylvan, mountainous New York setting complete with picturesque small town of Hamilton. It’s fairly expensive and is considered Ivy-esque for a SLAC: highly ranked in the U.S. News type of categories but mid-range (49th, still not bad) in terms of things the Washington Monthly ranks for, like creating social mobility. The campus made the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll for renewable and non-carbon-polluting energy practices. The school does have a Greek system, in which about 45% of students are enrolled. Colgate has an interesting numerological relationship with the number 13.

There seems to be a really well-thought-out core curriculum based around crucial interdisciplinary themes, rather than framing itself as some kind of timeless great books blahdy blahdy. The school website describes it as “ambitious and elegant” which is a lovely word choice. There are a surprising number of language majors, a *lot* of majors involving environmental sciences (including economics), a Native American Studies major, and a Peace and Conflict studies major among 50 or so others. The numbers suggest that many students go into careers in finance/business or in communications, so I hope someone is A. taking those liberal-artsy courses and B. translating their critical thinking focus into other fields. Bob Woodruff and Andy Rooney are among Colgate’s well-known alumni. Uber-leftist Chris Hedges and conservative commentator Monica Crowley are also both Colgate alums.

Colgate’s mascot is the Raider, about which I had trouble finding information. I later realized this had to do with the mascot, the ‘Red Raiders,’ referencing their maroon or red uniforms, but also initially being Native American. It has since been altered, to the school’s credit. Their athletics page prominently features their ‘You Can Play’ anti-homophobia video, also a welcome touch.  The women’s hockey team began as Division III in 1997, got pretty good very fast and switched to D-I in the 2000-2001 season. They’ve finished with a record above .500 three times since then, with a 19 win campaign in 2008-2009 as their best total. They’ve reached the ECAC semifinals once. Last year in a recruiting coup they brought in three first-years who had played with the U-18 Canadian national team. With the addition of goaltending this year, it still remains to be seen how that will pan out.

Sources: Colgate.edu, Wikipedia

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College Profile: Mercyhurst

Mercyhurst is another one of those schools that is well-known in the hockey world, but lesser known outside of it.  Hosting the women’s Frozen Four this year may help bring it additional attention.  Just a little more pressure on an elite program that has never won a national title.

Mercyhurst is a co-ed Catholic college founded in 1926 by an order known as the Sisters of Mercy (who are not departed or gone).  Its founder, with the astonishing name of Mother M. Borgia Egan, somehow managed to convince the state of Pennsylvania to charter the school despite its having no endowment, since the Sisters of Mercy themselves constituted a “living endowment.”  You can’t make this stuff up.  Mercyhurst was all female until 1969, not coincidentally a major year of reverberation from Vatican II, when it became co-ed.  It currently enrolls 3,000+ students on its main campus, which is in Erie,  and there are two satellite campuses in the area.

Mercyhurst offers bachelors of arts, science, and music, as well as associates degrees.  Its required curriculum is quite robust and includes a wide range of disciplines such math, science, art, writing, two ‘world perspectives’ courses (one of which must be non-Western in emphasis), and ethics.  Two religious studies courses are also required of all students   RS being my professional interest, I often turn close attention to RS departments at a given college, and Mercyhurst’s appears to be in the tradition of Catholic institutions that stress freedom of inquiry.  The courses focus heavily on Christianity for obvious reasons, but there is a diversity of offerings within the Christian traditions. Liberation theology is offered, as are classes on various contemporary concerns such as the environment and responses to postmodernity.  Last time I profiled the college I hinted  that there ought to be a dedicated Islam course and now there is.

Although it is impossible to ignore that a major campus building was donated by conservative Pennsylvania politician Tom Ridge (this is not Brown, in other words), the school’s mission statement shows how religious values may emphasize bettering the world.  According to this statement, Mercyhurst students are “socially merciful, globally responsible, compassionately hospitable (transcending mere tolerance), intellectually creative, reflectively aware ambassadors of service.”

They are also elite women’s hockey players.  The Lakers are 277-77-24 since their inception as a Div I program, including 3 30-win seasons, the most recent being last year.   Much of this can be credited to the school’s proximity to Canada, which brings many elite players down from the North each year.  The current roster is 60% Canadian.  Although it has never had a Kazmaier award winner for national best player, this could be the year someone breaks through, since seniors Meghan Agosta and Vicki Bendus lead the nation in points per game. Mercyhurst does benefit from playing in a weak conference, however.  It faces another top team only twice in the entire 2010-2011 season, although to be fair in prior years Maine would have been a solid non-conference series.  Considering the daily competition teams in Minnesota or Hockey East face, however, it’s not such a huge wonder that the Lakers have never broken through to an NCAA championship.  Perhaps the pride of playing at home plus the strong senior presence will finally make a difference this year.

College Profile: Bemidji State University

The reaction upon first encountering this school is, I suspect, usually some variation on “How wonderful, can that be a real name?”  So it’s only fitting that it be the subject of my first college profile.

Bemidji is apparently an Ojibwe word meaning ‘body of water traversed by another body of water,’ and it’s the name of both the town in Northern Minnesota and the lake on which the university is located, the northernmost feeder into the Mississippi about four hours north of the Twin Cities.  The town of Bemidji is adjacent to three Indian reservations, and of 13,000-plus residents about 12% are Native American.  Another major cultural influence is the myth of Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe (I had a wonderful children’s book on this subject and I encourage you to check it out), the events of which are supposed to have taken place in the area.  There are actually statues of Paul and Babe in downtown Bemidji and they appear on the city’s flag.  Bemidji can also lay claim to being the American capital of curling, as its local club teams have gone to the Olympics and several prominent international-level curlers hail from the town.

Bemidji State is located on the lake, which is also a vacation destination and near several state parks and protected areas.  Founded in 19191, it’s part of the Minnesota state system, but vigorously rejected a name change to Minnesota State-Bemidji, preferring to maintain a distinct identity.  5,000 undergrads and 300 masters and professional students come mainly from in-state, although an effort to glean students from elsewhere has resulted in in-state tuition being offered to non-residents as well.  One of the selling points BSU emphasizes on its website is a BFA in creative writing, which is a fairly rare degree, and even more interesting, one can minor in ‘electronic writing’ which includes blogs and other types of social media.  In general it seems to be the type of public school that works hard at serving an under-served population.

As is common at hockey-oriented schools, all the sports other than hockey are Div II.  The main reason that non-Minnesotans may have heard of BSU is that its men’s hockey team is legendary.  The Beavers have won 13 national titles and maintain the highest winning percentage of any Div I hockey team.  That is a pretty tall legacy for the more recently formed women’s hockey team to live up to, and they’ve struggled.  It is particularly difficult to recruit in a state which has two other public schools with top five hockey programs, one of which is also a well-regarded academic institution.  Indeed, Bemidji High School produced the 2008 Ms. Hockey, Sarah Erickson, and she chose to attend the University of Minnesota.  That had to hurt.  However all signs point to the BSU women’s hockey program turning a corner in the past few years.  After finishing 12-19-7 in 2010, the team won its first-ever playoff game and playoff series, advancing to the WCHA Final Face-off.  Coach Steve Sertich was named the WCHA coach of the year, and the recruiting effort seems to be picking up.  The team’s younger players include five Canadians including two first-years who played at powerful prep school Balmoral Hall, alongside the usual complement of 15 players from the Gopher State, one from Wisconsin, and the national team goaltender from Slovakia.

BSU has already garnered a pretty stunning win over Mercyhurst this year, and after a weekend of exhibition play against the semi-pro Whitecaps, will try to keep that momentum going against winless St. Cloud State before a tough home series against Minnesota-Duluth.  Linemates Emily Erickson, Erin Cody, and Sadie Lundquist lead the team in scoring with a cumulative 20 points through six games.  The Beavers were picked to finish fifth in the conference and can hit that mark if they pick up their play on special teams, which have been a particular struggle this season, and play with confidence.