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Reed College

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    Portland, OR
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    Acceptance Rate:
    40 %
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  • Summary

    Reed College is a school for free-spirited intellectuals deeply in love with learning.

    The typical “Reedie” spends hours each day (including weekends) hunched over some lofty text in the library or poring through volumes of scholarly journals, then unwinds by taking part in a drum circle or going on a nature walk through Reed Canyon. Reed’s curriculum focuses on, well, academia—promoting intellectual debate, analysis and critical thinking while virtually ignoring any sort of practical, professional preparation. As a result, a high percentage of its students go on to enroll in grad school. All students are required to take a year-long humanities course based on the classical foundations of Western society during their freshman year and must complete a senior thesis before

    they graduate.

    While the workload will drive most students to the brink of insanity, the academic environment at Reed is extremely supportive— the small community of 1,400 students are united by their common dedication to scholarship; professors are not only accessible, but tend to develop personal relationships with students that extend beyond the classroom. The school follows the Honors Principle and students are granted an enormous amount of freedom, responsibility and independence. Though the campus itself is located in a scenic residential section of Portland, Oregon, the city's easily accessible attractions provide a welcome distraction, assuming there’s time for one.

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  • Additional Info

    Reed is an independent, coeducational, nonsectarian college of the liberal arts and sciences that was founded in the early 20th century in accordance with the wills of Simeon and Amanda Reed, two wealthy Portlanders who amassed their fortune in agriculture, mining, lumber, and the riverboat trade on the Columbia River. A prominent Portland Unitarian minister named Thomas Lamb Eliot aided in establishing the college’s mission, visualizing an institution where “general enlightenment, intellectual and moral culture” were fundamental — a mission that still guides the college today.

    Founded in 1908, Reed held its first classes in 1911 in what was then the small logging city of Portland, Oregon. The College was founded pursuant to the will of Simeon Reed, who asked that his wife, Amanda, allocate part of his estate for '…benevolent objects, or to the cultivation, illustration, or development of the fine arts in the city of Portland, or to some other suitable purpose, which shall be of permanent value and contribute to the beauty of the city and to the intelligence, prosperity, and happiness of the inhabitants.' Since its doors opened, the Reed community has honored this pledge by creating and maintaining a highly demanding curriculum founded on the principle that students should receive a balanced education in both the sciences and humanities.

    Reed’s beautiful 116-acre campus is situated in the middle of Eastmoreland, a suburban neighborhood in southeast Portland. Its central campus has been located on the former site of Crystal Springs Farm since 1910. Though the college is a mere 15 minutes from the center of Portland, it has a remote, pristine feel that nature lovers appreciate.

    Over the years, the college has expanded into the wooded area surrounding the school, amassing a lush landscape filled with examples of Pacific Northwest indigenous plants and some exotic species. At present, Reed’s campus boasts more than 2,000 trees of 150 different species. This, along with Reed Canyon — a 26-acre watershed running through the middle of campus — has become one of the campus’s most charming and defining characteristics. The Canyon, replete with wildlife including herons, beavers, opossums, raccoons, and a variety of waterfowl, is frequently used by the biology department for research.

    The Canyon splits the college grounds into north and south campus. While the north section contains several dorms and two sports fields, the majority of campus life is centered around south campus, which features the Vollum College Center (a lecture hall), Knowlton Physics Laboratory, Scott Chemistry Laboratory, Griffin Biology Building, the psychology building, an art studio, the Education Technology Center, Houser Memorial Library, Watzek Sports Center, Gray Campus Center (which houses the Student Union), and Kaul Auditorium. Several of the main dorms, such as Anna Mann Hall and Old Dorm Block, in addition to the program houses, are located in this part of campus as well.

    The architecture on Reed’s campus is predominantly in the Tudor-Gothic style.

    For a tour of Reed’s campus, we turned to one of our campus ambassadors:

    “The coffee from Commons is terrible — don’t waste your board points on it. The Olde Paradox is not only steps away, but has way better coffee, plus ‘zines, a coffee shop atmosphere, and music so loud you won’t have to worry about trying to make awkward conversation. Or, if you’re on your way to the library, stop by Paradox Lost for equally loud music along with plenty of window seats and an amazing selection of Voodoo doughnuts. Paradox Lost is a great place to get your morning fix while enjoying the sun (from the safety of the great indoors), while the Old Shop is the best spot to be later on in the night, when you need to take a break and get re-energized.

    After you’ve gotten your coffee fix, head on over to the best place to browse books and movies, check your e-mail (five or six times), scan for cute freshmen, and get all five hundred pages of tonight’s reading done — the library! Okay, it may not sound cool, but it’s probably the most populous area on campus at any given time, and also has a lobby with comfy cushioned benches, a great place to sit and chat with friends while others slowly trickle in and get sucked into the black hole of 'I don’t want to do work' chatting. The library is also a great place to go to make yourself feel less guilty about spending time at the other fun places on campus.

    At this point in our tour-de-fun, you’ve got a bad case of caffeine shakes, you’ve spent an hour talking to your friends in the library lobby, and maybe you’ve even gotten some work done. Where do you go now? Well, if it’s after dark and you feel like taking a quick walk and getting a snack, head on over to Homer’s. Homer’s is the front part of the bookstore that stays open after bookstore hours and has lots of goodies: ice cream, candy, sandwiches, and even movies for rent if you just can’t keep working. Mere steps away from Homer’s, you and your microwavable burrito can hit the Pool Hall, which is just what it sounds like, a big room with lots of tables, plenty of free pool sticks, a jukebox, and lots of people who are ready to play.

    If these places all sound too confining and you find yourself yearning to kick off your Birkenstocks and become one with nature, you’ll feel most at home on the front lawn and in the Canyon. The front lawn is really only good for the first and last months of the school year, when it’s dry enough to sit on, but when it’s good, it’s great. The front lawn is a huge, freshly mowed lawn with grass long enough to run your fingers through as you listen to chirping birds and watch dogs catching Frisbees, and it’s only a few feet from many of the dorms on campus. Or, if this feels too exposed and you want to hide out in a nutria hole for a while, the Canyon is probably your best bet. Flanked by native flora and fauna and with a creek running through the center, the Canyon is a little oasis of privacy right in the middle of campus. Go from the heart of the library to the heart of nature in about three minutes — it’s worth it.”

    Reed is located in a section of Portland, Oregon, a short 15-minute bus ride away from the downtown district. Portland is Oregon’s post populous city, with about two million people inhabiting the metropolitan area. The city itself offers everything a college student could dream of, from restaurants and cafes to shopping to arts and culture, as well as a multitude of parks and open spaces.

    Portland is a very green city with a reputation for preserving open spaces. The city’s warm summers and temperate but rainy winters make outdoor activities a year-round possibility. Some of the most popular parks include the Hoyt Arboretum, which spans 160 acres and features 1,100 species from all over the world, and Forest Park, which is one of the largest wilderness parks within city limits in the United States.

    Portland is also known for its microbreweries and coffee houses, and plenty of both can be found downtown. Portland is also considered to be one of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in America. Aside from residents’ general environmental awareness, this may also be due to the city’s thriving youth culture, which features a popular DIY craft community and a plethora of subcultures, including punk, hardcore, and anarchist.

    Some of the best places in Portland, in no particular order are: Hawthorne, downtown, Forest Park, Belmont, and (for Reedies) Woodstock.

    Hawthorne is the name of both a street and a neighborhood, but the street is where to go. It’s packed with great thrift stores, quirky theme shops, gift shops with bins of plastic bugs and aliens for a dime each, record shops, barber shops that serve you a beer while you get your trim, and some of the best eats in Portland. Everything you could want in an off-campus adventure can be found here - well, except Powell’s. For Powell’s you have to go downtown.

    Downtown is an easy bus ride away, and once you’re there, not only can you get lost in the rooms and rooms of books in Portland’s favorite bookstore (the aforementioned Powell’s), but you can check out Pioneer Square, movie theaters, great restaurants, concerts, and lots of other cool things.

    On the other side of the coin there’s Forest Park, which is about as far from the downtown scene as you can get, but time-wise, it’s only a 10- or 15-minute car ride. Forest Park proper is comprised of about thirty miles of wilderness right inside our beloved Portland. It’s full of hiking trails, streams, and wildlife for those who want to get away from it all. This is also a great place to go if you’re a bio major and need to catch bugs or salamanders to torture.

    Another terrific street to cruise is Belmont. Here you can get amazing desserts and drinks at the Pied Cow, become a little kid again at the Avalon Arcade and Theatre, eat delicious vegan food, go to swanky bars, and even get your cupcake fix at Saint Cupcake.

    For those looking for something a little closer to home, Woodstock is the street for you. If you’re on campus, start walking south from literally any point. When you come to a big black streak of ground with the moving monsters that go ‘beep beep’ on it, make a left, then start your hike up the hill. Once you’ve made it up you can enjoy more than fifteen restaurants with offerings ranging from Southern cuisine to burgers to Thai; a convenient Safeway; pet stores with cute kittens; a public library; Oregon’s own guilt-free, one-stop shop, Bi-Mart; a Hollywood Video, two different places to get massaged, steamed, and yoga-ed; not to mention two coffee shops and a bubble tea place.

    Whew! Could you pack anything else into just twenty blocks? While it must be said that most of these places are a far cry from glamorous, some even a far cry from good, they’re all just minutes from Reed, and they’ll get the job done.

    As reported by Brittany Taylor ’09:

    “The Noise Parade comes towards the end of each Orientation Week. In this parade featuring fire, masks, body paint, squirt guns filled with booze, and worn out pots and pans from Goodwill, students march around campus screaming and playing anything that could be considered an instrument in order to bring the community together and to ward off bad vibes during the new academic year.

    As the year progresses and first semester finals fall hard into the laps of unprepared students wearied by completing their first courses at Reed, another tradition comes to the rescue. Helping to boil the blood and reinvigorate the spirits of all Reedies trudging their way to the Fundome (library) to study, the twice-annual playing of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ begins. The 1982 hit from the aptly named band, Survivor, is played every hour, though usually more frequently upon request. Students are encouraged — if not expected — to emerge from the library from time to time to dine on free PB&J sandwiches and to dance their hearts out to the anthemic tune, if only to turn right back around to return to their unfinished papers.

    Begun in the 1960’s as an actual renaissance fair, Renn Fayre is an annual weekend-long celebration that marks the last day of classes. Traditions and events include weird art installations, bug-eating contests, fireworks, lube wrestling, Glow Opera, and more wacky fun. Faculty, staff, and alumni also attend some of the festivities.

    As the year comes to a close and students experience the magic of their first Renn Fayre, they are sure to make a trip to purchase a few bottles of bubbly for their favorite seniors. During the kickoff event of Renn Fayre, the Thesis Parade, students drench freshly laurelled seniors with champagne to help them celebrate the culmination of a year’s worth of blood, edits, and tears. In return, the battle-weary and inebriated seniors thank these champagne heroes with the sloppy kisses and 'wish I hadn’t said that yesterday' declarations of love that Renn Fayre is known for."

    Paideia is a “festival of learning” that takes place the week before second semester starts. During this week, anyone who wishes may teach a class or seminar, including students, professors, staff members, and outside educators invited to campus by the Reed community. Some classes are silly and fun, while others are truly educational. One recurring class is the infamous Underwater Basket Weaving.

    Doyle Owl is a 280-pound concrete statue that has been continuously stolen, restored, and re-stolen since 1913.

    Richard Danzig (1965) served as Secretary of the Navy under President Bill Clinton.

    Janet Fitch (1978) is a fiction writer most famous for her novel, White Oleander.

    Emilio Pucci (1937) was an Italian fashion designer known for his colorful geometric prints.

    James Russell (1953) is the inventor of the compact disc.

    Larry Sanger (1991) is the cofounder of Wikipedia.

    Gary Snyder (1951) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet often associated with the Beat Generation.

    John Sperling (1948) is the founder of the University of Phoenix, a for-profit educational institution that has the largest enrollment of any private university worldwide.

    Though Reed has no official intercollegiate sports teams, club sports are popular on campus, providing a great way to unwind and de-cramp those library-stiffened muscles.

    As reported by Brittany Taylor ’09:

    “Reed College is home to both a men’s and women’s rugby team, which provide fierce and sometimes brutal competition to other teams in the Pacific Northwest Rugby Football Union. Reed is also home to men’s and women’s ultimate Frisbee teams, the Berserk and Booty, respectively, which honor the school with daring jumps and dives during their many yearly tournament appearances. In addition to these, Reed has active soccer, squash, and basketball teams that do the Griffin proud.”

    Reed’s TRIGA research reactor makes it the only school in the United States to have a nuclear reactor operated almost entirely by undergraduates.

    Reed’s official mascot is the griffin. The official school color is Richmond rose.

    One of Reed’s unofficial mottos, “Communism, Atheism, and Free Love,” is printed on apparel sold at the college bookstore.

    Reed has no frats, sororities, or NCAA athletic teams.

    Reed’s housing facilities are often regarded as among the best in the country. Almost all of the dorms are spacious and modern, with quaint touches like fireplaces, balconies, window seats, sitting rooms, and sun porches. Some of the older dorms, like Old Dorm Block, are beautifully designed in the English manor style with grotesques adorning the roofs and doorways.

    The dorms scattered about campus all have their own flavors and looks, some new and pretty, some old and pretty, some old and pretty ugly. Two of the most popular dorms are Anna Mann and the Old Dorm Block (ODB), which are two of the most attractive and centrally located. Anna Mann is like the fancy house on the block that you wish was yours, while ODB is your traditional brick, ivy-covered college building, but without the ivy. Starting in fall 2008, three more dorms modeled on Anna Mann will open on the north side of campus, all of which will surely be popular options.

    Other popular dorms include Bragdon, which looks like a ski lodge, and any dorms that have theme floors. The themes vary from year to year; however, Mad Science and Ancient Civilizations are always favorites. If you’re into foreign languages, Reed has a housing solution for you, too. For those seeking to immerse themselves in a language and its culture, there are language dorms about two minutes from the library. Choices include French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese, and they all look and feel like real houses, with their own kitchens and basements.

    Other options for the more independent students are the Reed College Apartments and Birchwood Apartments, which are available to students after their first year. Bunk up, or get your own — either way, this is an easy way to get your first taste of apartment life. Rooms come in singles or party-style (doubles), and apartments all have their own kitchens and living areas. Because they’re Reed-owned and -operated, only Reed students are allowed to occupy them, so you have a really good shot at knowing your neighbors, which is more than most apartment buildings can boast. These are also great places to live if you throw good parties, or like living near people who do.