What is it Like to Attend Chatham University?

Alexandra earned her bachelor’s degree in English and cultural studies from Chatham University. She specializes in writing tutoring, study skills tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at Chatham University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Alexandra: Chatham University is an arboretum located in the city of Pittsburgh. As a student, you enjoy a lush, beautiful campus full of history and old mansions established as the Chatham College for Women in 1869. Now a co-educational institution, it’s nestled between the Shadyside and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods, two very popular and trendy places to live for students who attend the surrounding schools. Chatham is one of many schools in Pittsburgh that provides free public transit to their students by using their ID cards. Chatham also has shuttles available to take students grocery shopping and into town.

The campus feels rural, but is located in an urban setting popularly and endearingly referred to as the “Chatham bubble.” I have never felt unsafe on campus, as Chatham is very much a community, and security is taken very seriously. Transportation options include free bus and shuttle access, ample space for parking bikes, as well as Zipcars on campus for student use.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?  

Alexandra: Chatham doesn’t have separate academic advisers from faculty; instead, the faculty who you work with in classes on a daily basis serve as your academic advisers and mentors. Professors are readily available during their posted office hours and are incredibly open to finding time to meet with you to talk about school and life. They also help you choose and schedule your classes each semester. You get, if you choose, to have a lot of personal interactions with professors at Chatham, and each and every one of them is invested in helping you succeed and reach your goals. Teaching assistants are graduate students in the MFA and science programs and are also readily available to help.

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Alexandra: The dorm life at Chatham is as social as you want it to be. Woodland Hall is the biggest dorm on campus and most central to the other facilities on campus with about four floors, housing 20-30 people on each floor. Fickes Hall is just down the hill from Woodland Hall and is the second biggest with three floors, housing about 20-40 people on each floor. The rooms and bathrooms in these two buildings have a lot of character. Rea House and Laughlin House are two smaller, but beautiful old mansions. Rea House includes residents who are involved with environmental issues, while Laughlin House includes international students and residents that are involved with cultural immersion and international issues. There are also apartments available on Fifth Avenue for undergraduate and graduate students. I was the Resident Assistant for Rea House and Apartments on Fifth Avenue, and I can honestly say that you can be as involved or not involved in the community as you wish to be. The furthest housing, Apartments on Fifth Avenue, has a private walkway that leads up to campus. To get to classes and other facilities on campus is less than a 15 minute walk. The main campus is small and self-sustaining. Dining options are great—there is a coffee shop on the main campus and a huge dining hall with amazing, mostly locally-sourced food. You are also a short walk away from the Shadyside and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods, home to amazing coffee shops, restaurants, and diners. Student Affairs at Chatham is a strong force and there are always programs happening. Again, you can choose to be as involved or not involved in the thriving academic and extracurricular Chatham community as you like.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Alexandra: Chatham has some really unique and amazing programs, including the newest food studies program for undergraduate and graduate students. Professors at Chatham have strong ties to the Pittsburgh community and around the world, so no matter what your professional goal is, they are able to provide strong insights and mentorship. The strongest programs at Chatham are their science programs, psychology, English, and marketing. I studied English and Cultural Studies at Chatham because I had an amazing high school English teacher that studied at Chatham and inspired me to attend. There are many intersections between the English and Cultural Studies programs, so adding the Cultural Studies major was a natural extension of the English major. Professors definitely push students to do graduate-level work and have an incredibly high acceptance rate for getting students into prominent graduate programs.

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?

Alexandra: It was incredibly easy to meet people and make friends as a freshman at Chatham. As a student in the Chatham Scholars program, I took the same classes with the same group of people, so we were able to foster strong relationships that have endured long after graduating. There are many events and organizations on campus that allow you to meet people as well as get involved off campus. Student Affairs, particularly working in resident life, actually led me to meet some of my best friends. Chatham does not have Greek life; however, Student Affairs invites Greek life from the surrounding universities to attend events.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? 

Alexandra: The PACE Center on campus is in one central location in the Jennie King Mellon Library. It houses many services, including the Writing Center, Tutoring Services, and Career Center. The Writing Center is where graduate students work with undergraduates of all levels to complete writing assignments. Tutoring Services allows students to set up tutoring appointments and request note takers for classes. At Career Services, students can set up internships and attend career workshops. Chatham is really good at bringing in alumni that have achieved significant career goals and who love to work with current students to help them achieve their professional goals.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Alexandra: At Chatham, any type of study area that you could imagine is available, and all are in beautiful facilities. You can work individually in study cubbies in the library or in spacious conference rooms with a group. You can also work individually or with friends at the coffee shop. The dorm lounges are all spacious and comfortable, and never over-crowded. You can go off campus to one of many coffee shops and diners in Shadyside, Oakland, or Squirrel Hill. All of these spaces are never too crowded, are easily available, and spacious.

Describe the surrounding town.

Alexandra: Chatham is nestled between the Shadyside and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Many of the universities in Pittsburgh are all located along Fifth Avenue, including Chatham. Directly outside of the Chatham campus are small, residential streets with beautiful mansions that lead to the popular Ellsworth Avenue and Walnut Street in Shadyside and to Murray Avenue and Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Both of these places include stores and restaurants.

Downtown, you can watch a Pittsburgh Penguins game across the street from Duquesne University at the PPG Paints Arena. You can also attend a play, symphony performance, or musical in the Cultural District where all of the theaters are located. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can cross one of the many bridges to the North Shore and attend a Pirates game, Steelers game, or even visit the Andy Warhol Museum. Whether you’re into the arts, sports, food, hiking, or biking, Pittsburgh has something for you.

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Alexandra: Chatham is a small liberal arts school where faculty members are incredibly invested in your success. My common core classes had 20-25 students, which was incredibly effective and comfortable since the professor easily learned our names and mediated fascinating and enlightening conversations among the group. Some of my English classes had 10 people, while some had up to 25. Regardless of the size, professors were always incredibly attentive to students' needs. I was really pleased with the typical class sizes, and these sizes are pretty much the same across majors.

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Alexandra: Every class that I had at Chatham was incredibly enlightening and helped me to become the professional I am today. One of the many memorable moments during my time as an undergraduate student at Chatham has to be my Tutorial defense. I had three amazing professors who were on my committee and encouraged me throughout the process. The head chair of my committee was a professor I knew even before I started at Chatham, the chair of the English department, who had taught and inspired my high school English teacher. The second chair of my committee, the Director of the Food Studies program, had directed my study abroad trip to Italy. The third chair of my Committee, the Director of Cultural Studies, was and remains a dear friend and mentor who I had worked as a research assistant to. The moment when they told me I had passed and that they couldn’t wait to see what the future had in store really exemplified the entirety of my educational experience at Chatham.

Check out Alexandra’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.