Mark Chalkley, RCN’s Senior University Counsellor, reports on his experiences on a university tour in April:

In early April 2015, 21 counsellors from the UWC family were flown over to the Midwest of the United States to visit four “Davis Partner Schools”: Macalester, St Olaf, Carleton and Luther Colleges. This fantastic opportunity enabled us to experience first-hand, these US college campuses. We met with faculty and staff, explored the diverse campuses and met with our alumni currently studying there.

Macalester College is probably currently the top destination for RCN students, and seems to be a good match for them. All of the RCN alums that Hildegunn (RCN’s second university counsellor) and I met with, seemed happy with their choice to attend Macalester. From Freshman to Senior, they were involved in all kinds of classes and activities. Julia Makayova, RCN ’14, invited us to attend a performance of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ in which she played the part of Faber, and played it very well!

Essam Bubaker, RCN ’14, Mazen Abu Sharkh, RCN ’14 and Wassim Askoul, RCN ’14 all gave us a very warm welcome when we arrived at St Olaf College, a relative new comer to the list of Davis Partner Schools. All three of them seem to be doing well. We also met with Senior Tea Dejanović, RCN ’11, who has secured herself a job in business management after she graduates.

Carleton College was very interesting – although we currently have no students there. I imagine that this is due, in no small part, to not having a visit from Carleton in recent years. The College seems to be very studious in its atmosphere with some students turning down offers from the likes of Brown and Amherst to attend.

Another very popular destination for RCN students is Luther College. RCN has 16 alumni there over the four undergraduate years, the majority of whom we had the opportunity to meet. The campus tour led by Jon Lund, who regularly visits RCN, was somewhat different to other campus tours. Jon took us from teaching building to teaching building, pausing at each to meet with a professor who told us a little about each building and the teaching that happens there. The absolute highlight of this visit has to have been the Nordic Choir practice. All who attended were speechless at the end! Some fifty students are a part of the choir with only a third of them being music majors; the rest just love to sing. Also, while at Luther, time was built into our schedule for us to meet and discuss issues as a counsellor group, face to face. This is a most valuable opportunity as we have contact with each other via email only on a week to week basis. We were able to discuss topics like: attendance reporting, number of applications we would support and a standardised school profile.

Luther College marked the end of the tour for Hildegunn and the majority of other participants; five colleagues and I had the chance to continue the tour. Our next stop was Wartburg College. This College has been working wonders with our students – they have a strong academic support system in place and our graduates, for the most part, seem to do well there.

The penultimate institution on the tour for the six of us who remained was Kalamazoo College, another relative newcomer to the “Davis list”. RCN has no one there at the moment, but the UWC students that we spoke to were positive about their experience. Kalamazoo has a distinctive approach to liberal arts education, the K-Plan, which has four components: Depth and Breadth in the Liberal Arts; Learning Through Experience; International and Intercultural Experience; and Independent Scholarship. Each student’s K-Plan will be a highly individualized, highly experiential curriculum that enables them to focus on, and make the very most of their own interests and talents.

The last college we visited, but by no means least, was Skidmore College. We missed Shelby Davis and Phil Geier by just a few days. They were there to receive an honorary degree each! Skidmore is a highly regarded liberal arts college known for its creative approaches to just about everything. The college’s core belief is: ‘creative thought matters’. Every RCN grad that I met with seemed very happy with the experience they have had. Several of the seniors, Nikhita Winkler, Musa Komeh, Maya Gurung and Thobile Nzimande, all RCN ’11 grads, have good prospects for the future in the form of jobs or further education. One of the outstanding things about Skidmore is that graduates tend to finish debt free.

All in all, it was superb visit and I hope that Hildegunn and I can continue to match our second years to universities which suit their abilities and profiles.