Colleges & Universities In The Valley

By Katie Brown

Prospective college students in the Lehigh Valley have a multitude of educational options at their fingertips. Join me as I “Hit the Road” and explore them and help you prepare for your own college road trips.

Let’s start in Easton with Lafayette College, located on College Hill. Originally founded in 1846 as an all-male institution, this historic campus is now home to approximately 2,400 full-time coeducational students within their 140 majors. Lafayette boasts more than 250 clubs and organizations, as well as 23 NCAA Division I sports.

Lafayette is known for its rare combination of liberal arts and engineering programs and offers a cross-discipline approach to learning.

Because Lafayette offers only undergraduate programs, the college affords students the opportunity to do research directly with their professors, giving them an experience typically granted to graduate students on university campuses.

Similar to their study options, Lafayette takes a unique approach to on-campus housing, which is guaranteed for all four years of study. In addition to the traditional student residence hall living, there are specialty “houses” throughout the campus dedicated to a certain field of study, language immersion, or similar general interests.

Lafayette students are urged to take the skills they have acquired and use them for the greater good. Such opportunities include the Lafayette chapter of Engineers Without Borders which recently traveled to Hondoras to plan and implement a new water supply pipeline.

Off to Center Valley, where you will find DeSales University. DeSales is a Catholic college administered by the Oblates of Saint Francis DeSales and guided by the philosophy of Christian humanism and the teachings of Saint Francis DeSales who said, “Be who you are and be that well.”

Valley natives may remember when DeSales University was Allentown College. With classes commencing in September 1968, Allentown College was established by Bishop Joseph McShea, as an extension of the elementary and high school programs of the Allentown Diocese which had split from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The first graduate program was offered at Allentown College in 1984 and, in March 2000, the school received notice that its application for university status was approved. Following this, the school’s name was changed to DeSales University.

Although all students are required to take Catholic theology courses, DeSales University offers a general core curriculum with broad-based liberal arts courses and majors. The school also offers six graduate degrees in areas ranging from business administration to criminal justice to nursing. The average class size at DeSales is 18, with a student to professor ratio of 15:1.

In addition, DeSales offers more than 30 clubs and organizations, as well as a student government program and yearly concerts by some of the biggest names in the music industry.

For students interested in a small school that offers programs and opportunities normally afforded a large university, visit Penn State Lehigh Valley. A commonwealth campus of the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., Penn State Lehigh Valley is one of 19 extensions of the University’s main campus and offers a student to professor ratio of 17:1.

The best way to know if a school is right for you is to visit it, walk around, talk to students and professors and see if it’s the right fit for you.

Penn State Lehigh Valley offers two courses of action for prospective students: one is for students to study for two years in any of Penn State’s more than 160 majors and, as a third-year student, transfer to the University Park Campus to finish out their degree. The other option is to complete their four-year bachelor’s degree at the Lehigh Valley campus in one of five different areas: applied psychology, organizational leadership, business, elementary and kindergarten education, or information sciences and technology.

With most of the classes held in their new location in Center Valley, Penn State Lehigh Valley offers every opportunity of the larger campuses. The new state-of-the-art library allows local students to access the entire Penn State library system remotely. Penn State Lehigh Valley has more than 30 clubs and organizations, including its own student newspaper, State of the Valley. The campus also houses a brand new fitness center that is open to faculty, staff, students and alumni with Penn State University ID’s.

Ranked number 37 in the nation among America’s best colleges by U.S. News and World Report, Lehigh University is among the most selective private universities in the country. Their internationally-recognized faculty challenges students from around in the globe in 90 programs and majors across the arts and sciences. More than 90 percent of Lehigh graduates find jobs within six months of graduation.

Lehigh University was founded in 1865 by Asa Packer, president of Lehigh Valley Railroad, with a class of 39 scholars dedicated to the “intellectual and moral improvement of men.” Today, Lehigh serves approximately 4,800 undergraduate students on its South Mountain campus in Bethlehem. It offers more than 200 study abroad programs in more than 60 countries.

Currently, undergraduate students in all of Lehigh’s four colleges are conducting research in areas such as energy and the environment, water purification, general politics, and the economics of obesity and autism, to name a few. The research programs at Lehigh include both community research and research abroad.

Lehigh boasts 25 varsity NCAA Division I athletic programs and more than 40 clubs and intramural sports.

Nearby, also in Bethlehem, is Moravian College—America’s sixth oldest university. Founded in 1742 by the followers of John Amos Comenius—a 17th century Moravian bishop whose humanistic ideals helped shape today’s education—Moravian College follows Comenius’ ideals that learning should be available to all and that education should follow human nature and be applied to practical uses.

Moravian is home to approximately 1,600 undergraduate students with more than 50 majors and courses of study, including pre-law and pre-medicine, as well as a wide range of business and liberal arts programs. The College is also home to the Moravian Theological Seminary where men and women prepare for Christian leadership in an ecumenical learning community.

Understanding the implications of information across all fields of knowledge, Moravian takes the approach of “Learning in Common,” allowing students to choose sets of courses from several disciplines. Here, the professor to student ratio is 12:1.

Students can design their own major with the assistance of faculty through the Add-Venture program. This highly competitive program accepts only first-year students who prove their maturity and clear sense of direction from the start of their college career.

Furthermore, the Honors Program undergraduate conferences and the SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) Program make it possible for a select group of students to conduct undergraduate research.

Moravian offers NCAA Division III and ECAC varsity sports, as well as intramural and club sports teams.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a highly selective liberal arts college located in Allentown. The college is named after Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the American Colonies.

Muhlenberg students have a choice of 40 majors in the humanities, fine arts, social and natural sciences, business and education, as well as pre-professional studies, including pre-health, pre-law and pre-theology. The University has approximately 2,200 students across its various fields of study. Because Muhlenberg is a smaller school with a 12:1 student to faculty ratio and average class size of 19, it fosters close student-faculty relationships both in the classroom and beyond.

Muhlenberg’s undergraduate theater program was ranked number six in the nation by The Princeton Review 2010. And, through Actors Connection NYC, students have the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of professionals in the Big Apple.

At Muhlenberg, students are afforded the opportunity to study abroad and, in 2009, more than half of the graduating class did so. Programs allow students to study in Europe, Latin America, Australia, Asia and Africa, with special programs for the theater and accounting, business, and economics students.

Service Learning at the college combines classroom lessons with work in the Allentown community to reinforce knowledge by addressing community needs. Service Learning is available in more than 20 courses within nine departments on campus.

Students have more than 100 organizations to choose from including religious, performing arts, academic and service groups. Last year, the school completed 38,000 hours of community service.

There are also 22 varsity sports programs competing in the Centennial Conference, a member of NCAA Division III and ECAC, as well as club sports and intramural activities.

Muhlenberg fosters a strong background for multicultural activities and, for a small college, is one of the most religiously diverse schools in the nation. Muhlenberg has strong Hillel and Neumann communities and a celebratory attitude toward faith traditions.

Women looking to advance their leadership skills in a close-knit community should visit Cedar Crest College’s park-like campus in Allentown. Founded in 1867, Cedar Crest College is ranked one of the nation’s top 10 women’s colleges, devoted to the development of women in a variety of fields ranging from chemistry to business to religious studies.

It is important to note that Cedar Crest does admit male students to its nursing as well as evening programs. It is known for its nursing school where, after completion of the National Council Licensure Examination, students can earn their licensure as a registered nurse.

With an average class size of 20 and a student to professor ratio of 11:1, Cedar Crest College’s approximately 1,400 students are given every opportunity for personalized and positive faculty interaction. To offer a more personal setting and to ease the transition from high school to college life, the Big Sis/Lil’ Sis program hosts social events and educational activities to promote interaction with first-year students, helping to promote the college’s unique tradition.

An important part of the college experience is not only education in a chosen field of study, but also career and graduate school planning. Cedar Crest’s Office of Career Planning affords students the opportunity for personalized one-on-one career counseling, as well as career development and alumnae-student mentoring programs.

Outside of the classroom, Cedar Crest is home to 50-plus student clubs and organizations as well as competitive NCAA Division III and CSAC sports programs.

Cedar Crest is devoted to community service as well: for each of the last two years, the Corporation for National and Community Service named Cedar Crest to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Katie Brown graduated from Penn State University and understands how rewarding it can be to consider a local school when searching for the perfect college.

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