The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Christine is a Houston tutor and 2012 graduate of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and currently specializes in many subjects including Algebra tutoring, Chemistry tutoring, and Writing tutoring. See what she had to say about her school:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Christine: St. Mary’s entire campus is gated and there are police in cars and on bikes patrolling 24/7. After midnight, all of the gates on campus are closed except one. I have always felt very safe on campus and it is easy to get in contact with the police if you have any safety concerns or need someone to walk with you late at night. Yes, occasionally, there have been cars that do get broken into just like at any parking areas but as long as you do not leave your valuables in sight, your car is unlikely to get broken into. Because the campus is relatively small, a bike is not necessary. On average, it takes about 10-12 minutes to talk from most of the dorms to the classrooms. I would suggest having a car if you need to get off campus often. Another option is riding on the public VIA bus to get off campus. There is a VIA bus stop right by the school.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Christine: This is what I loved about St. Mary’s University the most. My professors and academic advisers are not only my mentors but also my friends. Because most of the classes have about 20-30 students, professors quickly learn each student’s name. It is easy to meet with professors before or after class and they respond to emails fast. I could also easily meet with them in their office even outside their office hours. You even find students having lunch with their professors around campus.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Christine: St. Mary’s recently decided to accept more students than they could house. Within the past few years, many students find themselves having 2 roommates instead of the traditional 1 roommate in a bedroom. The school has already started making plans to build more dorm buildings. St. Mary’s recently changed the dining option to where students buy meals instead of having points. The school also just added Chick-fil-A and Starbucks on campus. I would consider the location of St. Mary’s to be in a “rough” area but as I had mentioned, the school is gated and I have never felt unsafe on campus. University Programming Council (UPC) and Student Council do an excellent job with planning school events to ensure that students feel very welcomed and are actively involved in campus life. It is very easy to join several organizations and to make new friends.
VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?
Christine: There is a large number of Biology majors and Business majors. I was a Biology major and pre-medical student. St. Mary’s University does an outstanding job supporting Biology majors. All the Biology professors and advisors make sure that the students are on track and assist the students with finding research jobs and applying for professional schools.
VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?
Christine: I found it very easy to meet people and make friends as a freshman. Most of the students, professors, and faculty are friendly and easy to talk to. While walking to and from classes, students and professors wave and say hi to each other. It is common to see familiar faces when you walk around campus. The warm friendly environment is just part of the Marianist spirit of the school. Yes, Greek life does play a role in the campus social life but I chose not to join a sorority and found myself just as involved with campus life and had just the same amount of friends and fun as sorority girls did.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Christine: Because I was a Biology major and pre-med student, I did not find myself using the Career Center often because the chair of the Biology department did a superb job of notifying students when and where there were research and clinical opportunities. Throughout the school year, there are a few job fairs and events where companies recruit on campus. The Civic Engagement service does a great job of keeping records of your volunteer work and hours. The only time I went to the Career Center was when I needed help with my resume to apply for a medical school program and for a mock interview. The individuals that work there are very helpful.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Christine: I believe it was a good idea for St. Mary’s to recently remodel the lower floor of the main library to have more group tables and group study rooms. The lower level allows students to talk and use white boards. The second floor has most of the computers and allows students to talk. The top floor is the silent floor. The library does get crowded during finals week, just like most colleges and universities, but most of the time, it was easy for me to find a place to study in the library. Most dorm lounges are good study areas. I would also suggest studying at the Law School’s library, where it is completely silent, if you cannot find any other place to study.
VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?
Christine: There is not as much to do in San Antonio as compared to the activities in Dallas or Houston. Of course, no student attends St. Mary’s University for four years without visiting the Alamo and the Riverwalk in downtown at least twice. The La Cantera and Northstar malls are good shopping locations. You will find many delicious Mexican restaurants all over the city. There are a few fun clubs and bars such Cowboys, Wild West, Howl at the Moon, Fox and Hound, and Posh. Most students go to the downtown area or drive at least 15 minutes to go have fun off campus.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Christine: St. Mary’s University has a small student body with a total of about 2,460 undergraduate students and a 13:1 student to teacher ratio. I graduated from high school with a class of about 270 students and felt very comfortable at St. Mary’s. I personally prefer small class sizes where I know almost everyone in the class and can maintain a close relationship with my professors.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Christine: My most memorable experience was being in Dr. Manchester’s General Biology class. He has a genuine passion to teach and is extremely knowledgeable. He cares for each of his students and their career goals. Dr. Manchester would teach using a wooden stick that he chopped off a tree outside of the Biology building and he made up funny stories for his students to remember many Biology concepts. His class was by far the hardest class I had ever taken but it was worthwhile because I learned to perfect my study skills in his class.
Check out Christine’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors