Road Trip: "Aha Moments" at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Just returned from a swing through the Midwest visiting colleges.  Here is my “aha moment” from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Aha!…Rose-Hulman has the environment of a small liberal arts college but the curriculum of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) school.  There are well over 600 small liberal arts colleges in the US but far fewer small STEM colleges.  Rose-Hulman not only fills that need, it does it extremely well.  For 15 consecutive years it has been ranked the best undergraduate engineering school in the nation where doctorates are not offered.  On a departmental basis Mechanical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer are each ranked #1 in the nation.  (US News)

With these rankings it comes as no surprise that each quarterly job fair has over 300 companies represented, that internships through Rose-Hulman Ventures, or otherwise, are prevalent, and that 91% of students have jobs at graduation and 99% within 5 months of graduation.  It is worth noting however that Rose-Hulman’s acceptance rate (56%) is significantly higher and graduation rate (79%) is significantly lower than comparatively ranked engineering schools such as Franklin W. Olin School of Engineering and Harvey Mudd College – both have acceptance rates in the high teens and graduation rates in the 90+ percentiles.  It is likely that the reason for the lower graduation rate correlates to the higher acceptance rate and admissions confirmed “the transcript is the bulk of the admission decision”. It is good to know that there is an engineering school of excellence that “B+ students” can attend.

Walking through campus I felt a kind of gentle comfort of the Midwest, which comes with an attractively treed and grassy summer afternoon. Adding to the impression of a safe, communal, almost protective bubble that allows students time to mature and helps them expand their horizons and succeed were a few of my student guides’ comments.  “Rose-Hulman gets you ready for your next step”; “Other school’s students are competing to get into their own school’s [overcrowded] programs; we are just focused on graduating”;  “We [2nd year dorm advisors] have an open-door policy; I’ve left my dorm room door open for two years and nothing has ever been stolen.”

It was therefore not surprising to learn that the academic environment is highly collaborative – homework can be done together as long as all names are on the assignment. Unexpectedly, Rose-Hulman’s student body is 76% Caucasian and only 4% Asian – not your typical STEM crowd. But, the male / female ratio was totally as expected for an engineering school at 80 /20.

Predictably at a top ranked engineering institute there is an innovation center (BIC) with a long list of team projects; research is plentiful; and FIRST Robotics is a big event. But there is balance: Rose-Hulman is ranked in the top ten of D3 sports (particularly strong in track and soccer); and Greek life “feels strong” with 36% participating.

Consider Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology if you are certain that engineering is for you, but would appreciate a bit of breathing room to sort out exactly where and how to get there.