Finding Your College HOME: A Visit to NC State University
Having lived in Durham, North Carolina for the past 10 years, my perspective of The Triangle, or Research Triangle, more specifically - named for the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill metro area - leans decidedly towards the Durham/Chapel Hill sides of the Triangle. From my house, I can be on Duke’s campus in 5 minutes, downtown Durham in 10, and on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus in 15. My daughters’ school is split into warring factions – those who support Duke (as they do) and those who support UNC (the majority of their school). Basketball season can be brutal at Forest View Elementary!
Entrenched as I am at times in my sides of The Triangle, it sometimes seems like Raleigh is a world away, even though it’s only a 40-minute drive at the most. I’m also so enmeshed in the Duke-UNC rivalry that I don’t give nearly as much thought to the world-class university in Raleigh – North Carolina State University. So, I drove the 40 minutes to Raleigh to visit NC State’s campus, with the goal of finding out if it could be a good HOME (GEC’s acronym to use when visiting colleges) for the students with whom I work.
I chose to do a standard information session and tour for first-year students, but their visiting options are extensive. They offer virtual information sessions, a variety of self-guided tours, and specialized information sessions and tours for their various colleges and specialized programs, ranging from the College of Engineering to the Wilson College of Textiles, the only college of textiles in North America!
The confirmation email I received gave detailed instructions; but as I arrived on campus, construction between the Talley Student Union (where the campus visit began) and the parking garage blocked my way. After a short detour, I was able to navigate past the construction and to the public parking garage, leaving plenty of time to get to the information session and tour, which began at 10:00 AM sharp.
The day I visited happened to be the first day of exams, so at the beginning of the tour I was left wondering where all the students were. When we entered the Hill Library, I found out. Students were studying in groups ranging from 2 to 10 in every common area in sight - some nose-down in complex engineering textbooks, some in larger study groups talking animatedly. Our tour guide was a senior, slated to graduate in two weeks, and was friendly and knowledgeable, answering all questions asked with an informed answer. She represented her almost alma mater very well.
Open and Welcoming
Main campus was easy to find with the directions provided in the confirmation email. The public parking garage where visitors are instructed to park is a pay lot, which was made clear in the confirmation email, but could be a barrier for families with limited means. It would be nice if they would validate parking for a set number of hours for all visitors. Signage was plentiful, both for drivers and pedestrians, and campus maps were handed out at the visitors center and located at convenient locations around campus.
The information session was given by Jimmy Zuniga, an admissions officer and 2019 graduate with an International Studies major. He transferred to NC State after spending 2 years at a North Carolina community college, an underutilized (in my experience) and affordable way to get a degree from an excellent institution. He talked about the Multicultural (which he was involved in as a student) and Women’s Centers located in the Tally Student Union, and our tour guide pointed out Holmes Hall, where the Disability Resource Office is located (along with the academic advising and study abroad offices). Highlighting these specific offices showed a desire to make sure students with all backgrounds and abilities would feel comfortable attending North Carolina State.
The campus is attractive and immaculately maintained, especially for such a large campus. Buildings, which are mostly red brick, are interspersed with green quads and athletic fields for varsity, club and intramural sports. The visitor center in Talley Student Union is well-resourced to impress visitors. Talley was originally built in 1972, but completely renovated and reopened in 2015; it is the clear hub of main campus. As you enter, you are greeted by a breathtaking large, light filled, four-story atrium. In addition to a variety of student life centers, Tally has a 1200-person ballroom, a 2-story school store, and a variety of dining options, including a Howling Cow ice cream location, which is made from milk provided by cows from NC State’s Dairy Research and Teaching Farm.
My information session and tour were on the “main” campus, but there are 3 different campuses, all of which are relatively close together in Raleigh. The Centennial Campus houses the engineering and textile colleges and is home to the futuristic, state-of-the-art Hunt Library.
The final campus, the Centennial Biomedical Campus, is home to the College of Veterinary Medicine – a graduate program - and undergraduate life-science majors such as animal science, biological sciences, and zoology. It is also home to PNC Arena and Carter-Findley Stadium, where the Wolfpack basketball and football teams compete.
NC State is the largest public university in North Carolina with around 36,000 total students, 25,000 of whom are undergraduates. The information session and tour both addressed how the size impacts student experience in the classroom, with Mr. Zuniga giving the example of an Intro to Business class having 300 students, while higher level classes may have as few as 10 students. Average class sizes are 35 students, and classes that are larger have labs or smaller study groups lead by PhD, masters, or select undergraduate students who are knowledgeable in the course material. They did not shy away from the large size, addressing it head on, which I found refreshing.
State’s location in Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, was another major point of focus. Its campus is very close to downtown Raleigh, which has a large variety of restaurants, museums, and other businesses that students are easily able to enjoy.
Another benefit of NC State’s location is the ability to participate in research, internships and co-op programs extremely close by. The Career Development Center allows students to explore a variety of options, so whether you are interested in an internship at the state capital downtown or a co-op with a biotech company located in Research Triangle Park (an innovation center with technology firms, government agencies, academic institutions, startups and nonprofits located in the middle of the Triangle), there are many options for students close by.
Finally, it’s important to note that first-year students are required to live on campus. Our tour guide highlighted the 19 living and learning villages that students can choose from. These villages are based around common identities, skills or academic interests, and allow first-year students to live with people with similar interests. I thought this was another way to make State feel smaller.
Overall, I was very impressed with North Carolina State’s strong sense of community, lovely facilities, variety of academic offerings, and strong pre-professional, experiential learning, and career placement programs. State was founded as and agricultural and mechanical university, and it is true to its founding. It is THE public engineering school in North Carolina, has extremely strong agricultural programs, and one of the most highly regarded veterinary medicine programs in the country. It’s also moved beyond its roots, and has developed excellent business, management, fashion, and political science programs, just to name a few. Equally as important, it is consistently listed nationally as a top value university. I was happy that I drove 40 minutes down I-40 to visit NC State. It gave me a new appreciation for the amazing higher education institutions in The Triangle and I know it will be an excellent HOME for students that I work with in the future.
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