The biggest (in my opinion) difference between big and small schools

Don’t tell anyone, but anytime VT goes on break, I go back to my undergraduate college and work.  I work a lot of VT-related research, projects, etc., but I also have ongoing research still at my school.

Anyway, I’m not writting to say that research is great and passionate at small, liberal arts schools (which, it is), but to point out another HUGE difference between a small school and a big school.  We talked a lot about how smaller schools are typically more teaching-oriented, and how smaller schools have more opportunity for service and mentoring.  What we didn’t mention is the sense of community at smaller schools.

For example, all science disicples are located in one three-story builing at my undergraduate college, and everyone knows everyone.  Better yet, everyone is friends with everyone else.  As you pass in the hallway, there are comments about happy hour on Friday, how someone’s kids are doing, book recommendations, etc.  It a very social atmopshere. When I return, everyone stops in to ask how VT is, how my research is going, etc.

Now, I have a very small department at VT, and none of that occurs.  Everyone is isolted in their own office, there’s not a lot of conversration outside of academics, and it is pretty rare the the entire department shows up to any event.  Work is work, and it is never to mix with personal life.

Anyway, we talk a lot about how different education is in different countries. But it occurs to me that, if you’ve never attended a small college, the workings and ideals of a instituion with less than 1500 students might be just as foreign to you as a college in another country (well, a bit of a overstatement, but you understand).  The difference is way more than teaching exepctations too…..

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