County college students start off on right foot

Wednesday August 29, 2012

Berkshire County's four colleges are reporting strong starts to the new academic year by heralding in creased enrollments, more diver sity and strong academic potential among the new students.

Peter Laipson, the provost of Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, welcomed an incoming class of 148 students on Aug. 18. All 377 of its students began classes on Monday.

Simon's Rock is a small, private liberal arts school where students attend college after completing their sophomore or junior years in high school. They graduate from the college with either an associate degree or a Bachelor of Arts.

"We've increased our enrollment over the past two years," said Simon's Rock spokeswoman Karen Anderson.

About 59 percent of Simon's Rock students at the school are female; 14 percent are first-generation college students; 10 percent of its students are participants of the Berkshire regional scholarship program; and 31 percent of students identify as students of color.

Following introductory remarks at an Aug. 18 ceremony, Simon's Rock first-year students went immediately to class to start a week-long intensive writing and thinking workshop.

Williams College first-year students began moving into Williamstown on Tuesday for a week of orientation programs. Classes start for all students on Sept. 6. Convocation is Sept. 8.

"I can't wait to meet the new students as they gather here to begin to weave together the individual threads of their lives into the vibrant and strong community they will make at Williams," said Sarah Bolton, dean of the college and professor of physics.

The college reported that 292 women and 259 men make up the new class at Williams. To enter the Williams Class of 2016 was very competitive -- 7,064 students has applied, the second-highest number of applicants in the private, four-year college's history. Thirty-eight percent of students in the incoming class are U.S. students of color, and nearly 6 percent are international students representing 24 countries.

This weekend, first-year students will participate in EphVen tures, a program engages students in local field trips and community service activities.

Incoming students of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams will participate in a similar program, also known as First Days. New students begin moving in on Sunday, and will take part in traditional MCLA Labor Day activities such as a hike up Mount Greylock, community service projects, and an "art crawl" through area galleries. Classes for all MCLA students begin Sept. 5.

Denise Richardello, MCLA's vice president of enrollment and external relations, said that MCLA has close 500 new students entering this fall, which includes transfer students. About 300 to 325 of these students will enroll as freshmen at the four-year public liberal arts school.

"There's an increase in diversity representation as well as in the quality of our applicant pool," Richardello said, noting MCLA had more students apply with Advance Placement program credits for this year than in the past.

Though 70 percent of these students come from Massachusetts, there has been an increase in the number of students coming from Connecticut, largely due to recruitment efforts.

"We have lots of interest from students in our STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields," said Richardello, noting a 32 percent increase in applications to the biology program. More students than before have also applied to programs in math, physics, chemistry, social sciences, English/communication and computer science.

This year, the college went through the competitive application process to join the Common Application system for undergraduate college admission. Williams College is also part of this system.

As for Berkshire Community College, it will host a professional day for its instructors today and will host a new student orientation program Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Classes begin for all BCC students Sept. 4.

Beth Wallace, director of student engagement for the college said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 200 new students were registered to attend orientation, and more are expected.

"We usually get about 100 walk-ins that day as well," Wallace said.

To reach Jenn Smith:,
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