These Are America’s 10 Most Innovative Colleges

7. The New School (New York, NY)

New School University
Beyond My Ken, New School University Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

What makes The New School so innovative? One could point to their special focus on the arts; few specialty programs have made as much stride in the last decade as their Mannes College of Music or the their prestigious Parsons School of Design.

You could also point to the New School’s culture – among the most liberal colleges in the US, the school is committed to fostering unique, experiential growth.

However, what we find most interesting about the New School is their embracing of individualized learning.

To that end, one feature of The New School making it stand out among its peers is their “student-directed curriculum.”

In this curriculum, undergraduates of The New School doe not participate in general ed required courses; rather, students can explore a number of areas they are interested in before committing to a major.

This maverick attitude towards helping a student figure out their best future is innovative, if for no other reason than most other schools require a hefty load of gen-ed classes to graduate.

6. Evergreen State University (Olympia, WA)

Evergreen State College
Gregg M. Erickson, The Evergreen State College, CC BY 3.0

Evergreen State takes a different approach; they allow for students to take a single class worth up to 16 credits.

There are no majors in this program; students have the flexibility to pursue a number of curricular interests.

To this end, students do explore a central theme that’s important to them. There are also 2-6 credit single-subject courses. However, they have to be complementary to what the central theme of your study is.

One example Evergreen State uses to illustrate this unique concept is Earth Dynamics. This is a program that integrates Economics, Geology, and World History. The three subjects combine to show how humans have changed local environments and global processes. This allows a deeper exploration of the underlying theme through an integration of these subjects. 

Additionally, Evergreen State has innovation stemming from its pioneering culture, as it is one of the most important liberal campuses worldwide.

5. Reed College (Portland, OR)

Now before you think that this institution doesn’t mark its students at all, hold your horses.

True, there are specifically no letter grades at Reed College. To be very specific, students are marked through grades, but they’re never issued by the Registrar’s office. This is due to the underlying philosophy of the school that letter grades divide students.

However, that doesn’t mean students that are failing are allowed to do so without consequence. Letter grades are never distributed to students if they remain at satisfactory levels. These are grades at C or higher. However, grades below that are reported to the student directly or their advisor.

All grades can be obtained via student advisors or their course instructors. A transcript can also be ordered from the registrar’s office. However, the obtainment of the grades is not mandatory.

Individual conferences are held between students and instructors so that evaluations are much more useful than a letter grade. Comments are provided at the end of the conference if the student has scored below the expected standard.

The progress of the student is viewed six times every single year. This amounts to four-weekly conferences; twice each semester, and at the end.

4. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Boynton Hall, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, CC BY-SA 4.0

At Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), you get to travel abroad and take part in a project. The university encourages the participation of all its students in this Global Project program. They have access to nearly 50 centers around the world.

Students will receive a scholarship of $5,000 starting with the class of 2022 to complete a project abroad. The centers of learning are positioned in cities, mountainous areas, and even in villages. The projects can range from capstone project, art projects, to humanitarian projects.

This allows for a huge cultural exchange as well as language immersion.

Additionally, as the school is is a technical institute, WPI consistently demonstrates research that has pushed engineering and technology forward. The school has even recently launched an Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative to foster students’ creative enterprises.

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