College Cousins: University of Colorado and University of Vermont

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Love the outdoors? Love being part of an outdoor-oriented community? If you are looking at colleges but don’t want your four-year experience to be confined to classrooms and dorm rooms, then you will want to take a particularly close look at the Universities of Colorado and Vermont. These schools are in locales that celebrate the great outdoors, and both reflect that vibe at every turn.

The University of Colorado, located in Boulder, Colorado, has garnered top honors for “best college town” more than once. It’s hip and celebrates a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Because of its proximity to the Rockies, some of its 400+ clubs and organizations are a natural outgrowth of that interest. They include ski racing, canyoning, climbing, hiking, skydiving, and caving.

The love of the outdoors is even reflected in some of its academic options. Colorado offers more than 3,800 courses in 150 fields of study. Among them are Environmental Design, Environmental Engineering, and Environmental Studies, but that’s hardly all that is available. Among those 150 fields of study are majors in various aspects of business, engineering, humanities, and the sciences. In 2017, Colorado even made the top ten in the “U.S. News & World Report” national rankings for aerospace engineering, atomic/molecular/optical physics, ceramics, education policy, environmental law, geology, physical chemistry, and quantum physics.

The University of Vermont, located in Burlington, Vermont, exhibits a similar style in its celebration of the outdoors and focus on the environment. It offers a multitude of student clubs and organizations, many of which provide the active outdoor experience its students want and expect. For example, there are clubs that plan outings, others that feature climbing or kayaking, and several for ski and snowboard lovers.

Some of Vermont’s vibe is also reflected in its undergraduate degrees. There are over 100 majors, so students can opt to study business, humanities, or the sciences, but there are also fields of study such as Environmental Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Forestry, Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, and Wildlife and Fisheries Biology for those whose priority is understanding and preserving our planet. Vermont practices what it preaches, too. It’s proud of the campus’ well-deserved ‘green’ reputation, which it has earned, for example, by initiatives that have resulted in the recycling of 46% of the university’s waste.

Vermont is a strong promotor of experience-based learning. According to its “facts” page, 92% of seniors report engagement in research or internships. In addition, there are opportunities for research and study abroad, and students can also enroll in one of Vermont’s 104 service-learning courses. First-year students are encouraged to take advantage of one of Vermont’s themed residential communities, and 70% do just that.

Colorado has its own version of learning communities. Its twelve Residential Academic Programs allow students to live and study with students who share similar academic interests. Colorado also has four Living and Learning Communities that build on the RAP concept by adding an activity component, offering students holistic development of mind, body and spirit.

The Universities of Colorado and Vermont are 2,000 miles apart and vary in size (as Colorado is nearly three times the size of Vermont), but make no mistake. At heart, they are kindred spirits.