Hunter definitely capitalizes on its prime New York City location via the Muse Scholar Program, a four-year honors program for artistically talented students. Dara Meyers-Kingsley, the director of the program, tells us that Muse students have “opportunities all four years to engage in creative practice” including all arts disciplines (visual and performing arts, film/media and creative writing) as well as via “access to internships and to professionals in the arts and culture fields.” A yearlong course called Exploration in the Arts initiates them into the program in which students visit museums and galleries, attend dance, musical, and theatre performances on and off Broadway, as well as at other venues like Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. The course has a writing critique component as well as “time for creative practice and work-shopping” tied to the performances they are seeing. For example, a class period prior to attending a dance performance is devoted to movement and choreography and taught by graduate students in Hunter’s Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program. Other core requirements are similarly geared toward the particular interests of Muse Scholars. When they take a required English composition course, for example, “the professor knows the Muse students come in with artistic talents and interests and has tweaked their . . . reading and writing assignments accordingly.” An annual Muse Arts Showcase (which includes an art exhibit and evening performance) allows dancers, opera singers, and creative writers alike to show the Hunter campus “what they can do.” Though most Muse students end up majoring in the arts, this is by no means a requirement. Ms. Meyers-Kingsley tells us, “They major in media and music, English literature, psychology, accounting, history, art history, biology, environmental studies, geography, sociology, theatre, and film. Two or three are pre-med.”
And Muse is not alone. Other themed communities that, like Muse, offer merit scholarships for incoming first-years, include: the Roosevelt Scholars Program (public policy and civic affairs), the Yalow Scholars Program (pre-health or scientific research), the Athena Scholars Program (philosophy and literature), and the Nursing Scholars Program.
One of only twelve in the nation, Hunter’s Chinese Flagship Center, funded through the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Security Educational Program, aims to create global professionals. Graduates of the program will have language and cultural skills miles ahead of those gained by the typical major or minor in Chinese. “It’s actually a program requirement that students must live, study and work in China for one year after their language proficiency reaches advanced level,” Professor Der-lin Chao told us. Dr. Chao is the director of the Chinese Flagship Center project at Hunter and head of the Chinese literature and language division. She says, “Very few language programs prepare their students up to a level that permits them to take college-level content-based courses with local university students, and to work capably in a Chinese-speaking environment.” And for employers, the appeal of these students goes beyond their professional language skills. Dr. Chao explains, “They become fluent in Chinese culture and civilization. Through language training, community service, internships in the United States, and internships in China, they find they are capable of working and communicating effectively with global customers and partners. We are truly preparing our students for global professional careers.” The program invites a number of global professionals from the legal, medical, business, marketing, and education fields to speak with the students because “they not only need professional language skills but solid professional knowledge to succeed,” Dr. Chao tells us. But, like any college students, not everyone has specific career goals right from the start. “For those students who need time to explore,” Dr. Chao explains, “professionals from different fields [show] students different career possibilities.”
STEM majors have fifteen federally and privately funded research initiatives on campus to choose from, which are all bundled together into Hunter’s Science Mathematics Opportunity Network, thanks to a $1.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition, recognizing that funded research opportunities are vital to students in all fields, Hunter has developed the Undergraduate Research Initiative “to provide funded research experiences for Hunter undergraduates outside the STEM disciplines—areas where federal funds to support such activities are scarce,” the school says. These faculty-student research collaborations pursue both academic and creative projects that can take them everywhere from the library stacks to the costume studio. And students say that “accessibility to a wide variety of NYC internships and research” is one of the school’s greatest strengths. Humanities and social sciences students join their peers in the STEM fields every year for Hunter’s Undergraduate Research Conference. In the last three years, student participation in the conference has nearly doubled, which is representative of the growing number of resources Hunter provides and the administration’s efforts to widen the range of disciplines that have access to undergraduate research opportunities.
The Co-Curricular Initiative allows Hunter students and faculty to get to know one another through excursions or field trips that the school pays for. Through these ventures students might get a chance to develop their skills in the field, like the geography students who went on an overnight trip to Black Rock Forest to introduce them to field methods in soil science, ecology and water quality sampling and to promote camaraderie among faculty and students. Or, like the German 101 class that went to the Guggenheim Museum to tour works of contemporary German artists, including 20th century painter Wassily Kandinsky, they might get a broader understanding of the cultural and artistic influences within a language they are studying. Students in a theatre production course who were working on a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya even got to enjoy a Russian restaurant on West 54th Street where they discussed the play while learning about Russian food and culture.
Another part of the Presidential Student Engagement Initiative, the Student-Faculty Research Initiative, provides opportunities for students to collaborate with their professors on important research. Students get to have one-on-one access to their professors, which includes perks like learning to use advanced scientific equipment or developing and implementing research methodology. In the past such efforts have included work designing methodology to sample and measure the heavy metal content of rainwater collected at Hunter College’s weather station and address related questions of metal accumulation in soils and plants on Hunter’s green roof. Students have even joined in on important medical research in teaching hospitals, like two chem majors who worked alongside a Hunter College chemistry professor and a professor of biochemistry and chemistry at Weill Cornell Medical College to conduct x-ray crystallography of a protein that is showing promise as a possible target for drug therapy for aggressive breast cancer that doesn’t respond to conventional treatment.
These initiatives allow faculty and students to interact in ways that would be impossible to engineer in the classroom. Hunter College tells us that these close interactions mean students benefit from more “mentoring, advising and a collaborative spirit that encourages students to see new possibilities for themselves and their futures.” One current student enthuses: “The professors are what have made my experience here so incredible! Perhaps most encouraging, they bring to the table their vast experiences in their field of expertise and have never hesitated to educate on what to expect when we are outside of the classroom, often offering a practical aspect to what in many classrooms are strictly academic discussions.”