Friday, August 17, 2012

Shimer in a nutshell?

Some suggested talking points have been posted on, for those recommending Shimer to others. (Doesn't mention the weekend college or early entrance programs, but I suppose that is understandable given the needs of the "elevator pitch".)

Here is the text in full:

Graduate-like Experience, Undergraduate Support
The Shimer curriculum is rigorous and places a strong emphasis on student responsibility in learning. As in a graduate seminar, students are expected to have read the assigned text and be prepared for an in-depth discussion. But students at Shimer also enjoy the fully supportive environment of a small liberal arts college with a close-knit community.

The classroom is a safe and open space where students feel free to share ideas. At Shimer, faculty members don't hold office hours because they are always available to talk with students between or after classes. All Shimerians—faculty, students, staff, alumni, even the Presidentare on a first-name basis with each other. And with IIT's clubs and our own community events, not to mention the whole city of Chicago, there's always plenty to do with friends. 

A College without Professors
At Shimer, what matters most in the classroom is what students think and believe. Of course we have professors, but as one of them said, "We are completely convinced that each and every student has deep and complicated thoughts that need to be explored." Professors at Shimer act as guides for that exploration, helping students progress seriously by starting with students' own ideas and experiences of the world and what they read. At Shimer, professors don't stand at a podium and lecture. That is why we call them "facilitators" rather than "professors."

Preparation for a World Not Known
Shimer's curriculum—representing the best that has been thought over centuries—is a curriculum for any future. At Shimer, we don't teach job-specific skills but we do teach skills like problem-solving, communication, and associative and analytical thinking that prepare students for whatever careers might emerge in this quickly-changing knowledge economy. You, the alumni, are the best testament to the success of this particular outcome of the Shimer curriculum:  lifelong learning.

No Textbooks, No problem
Only primary-source readings. Ever. And every semester, each student gets a box of fresh, crisp books to keep, building up a library of canonical, time-tested texts from antiquity to the present day.

Chicago is Our Campus
For students at Shimer, the city is part of the college experience. Students have access to courses, services, and activities at IIT; they enjoy free membership to the Art Institute of Chicago; they see foreign movies, attend concerts and go to poetry readings. Bridgeport, the neighborhood where many students live and the birthplace of five of Chicago's mayors, is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in Chicago. It boasts great eateries, galleries, and non-chain coffee-shops.

In a nutshell:

  • Students complete 85 credits in the core curriculum and 40 credits in electives.
  • There are no majors, but some students concentrate in Humanities, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences.
  • There are no textbooks, lectures, or traditional tests. 
  • All Shimer’s classes are discussion-based, and the average class size is 9. 
  • Students may study abroad in Oxford during their junior or senior year.
  • Shimer is located on the campus of IIT, and students have access to IIT housing, meal plans, health services, etc.
  • Students have the opportunity to be meaningfully involved in Shimer's governance structure.
  • Shimer is a close-knit community, and everyone is on a first-name basis. We have regularly scheduled community activities including chess tournaments, theater, lecture series, and Assembly meetings.
And, finally:
  • Do encourage students to visit campus.
  • Do speak positively about your experience at Shimer.
  • Do ask students about what they like to read. 
  • Do keep students’ personal information confidential. 
  • Do refer inquiries to the Admission Office.

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