Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is a private, coeducational, undergraduate school focused on math, science, and engineering. The majority of students are engineering majors. Unless you are from Indiana or in the engineering field, you probably haven’t heard of Rose-Hulman. Even if you are from those demographics, you still may not have heard of Rose-Hulman. It seems that Rose-Hulman is the best kept secret of the Midwest. Rose-Hulman is essentially a utopian community of engineers and scientists.
While Rose-Hulman’s price tag is a little expensive, it is worth the educational investment since the average starting salary for 2008 grads was $57,822. Rose-Hulman is like an all-inclusive vacation resort; once you have paid the initial fee, everything else is covered. When the student activities board brings a comedian or musician to campus, it is free to go see the performance. When the fine arts program brings a legendary violinist or a touring Shakespeare company to Hadley Hall, the public pays fifteen to twenty dollars, but students get in for free. Athletic events, seasonal carnivals, drama productions, and random outings sponsored by student groups or academic departments are free. And, we love to tailgate for drama productions and less well-attended sports; it is all about gathering together to take a break from studying.
Rose-Hulman is unique because it is a true community. Because the campus is located outside the town of Terre Haute (part of the campus is in the city limits, and the other section is outside of the city limits), there are only two ways to drive on campus creating a safe little community. The campus culture endorses what is called the “open door policy.” While not an actual school policy, students feel so safe in their residence halls that people rarely shut the doors to their rooms, let alone lock those doors.
For all four of my undergraduate years, I lived in the residence halls. I cannot remember ever locking my door. It was always a scramble at the end of the year to find my room key to turn in for the summer break. I loved walking up and down the halls and seeing my classmates hard at work or play in their rooms. The open doors made the residence halls feel like a giant family hallway instead of a hotel with isolated rooms.
It is nearly impossible to get lost in the shuffle at Rose-Hulman. When freshmen and their parents show up during freshman orientation, members of the residence life staff move all of the boxes in for the family so that their last few moments together are not stressful moving moments. Professors are often seen wandering through the halls during move-in day to meet their advisees and their parents. It is apparent to the freshmen and their parents when they show up on move-in day that they have arrived at a community where the people genuinely care about one another. All of the attention does not end once classes start; professors are genuinely interested in students’ lives, and make an effort to get to know them.
Rarely did I have a class where my professor did not give out his or her home phone number. And while the professors technically have office hours, I never bothered to figure out when they were because the professors had their office doors open and were available all the time. I spent hours conversing with my professors about topics unrelated to class because all of them had very interesting experiences prior to teaching at Rose-Hulman. While not my purpose in getting to know my professors on a personal level, an added benefit was that when I applied to professional programs my letters of recommendation were actually written by PhD professors who could speak very specifically to my skills and experiences. I even had friends who would meet their professors at the racquetball courts in the Sports and Recreation Center after calculus class.
The staff at Rose-Hulman is also very friendly and knowledgeable. College administrators are accessible to all of the students and are willing to meet individual student needs. It is wonderful to be part of a community when everyone is pulling for you to succeed, especially when you feel like graduation is too far away.
I was on a first-name basis with many of the staff members from Pete, the Dean of Students, to Keith, the late-night, on-campus snack shop cashier.
The day of Commencement, student spirits run high because the graduates are so excited to have made it and earned a degree from Rose- Hulman. However, the jubilation is nostalgic because students know that they are leaving an incredibly special living and learning community, an engineering and science utopia. Rose-Hulman is a cooperative learning environment where students are challenged intellectually and given the freedom and nurturing needed to mature into responsible citizens. The learning process forges lifelong bonds between students, staff, and professors. Every year, members of the Rose-Hulman family earn their wings and leave the nest, but none of the graduates ever forgets “dear old Rose.”