The Academic Campus
The libraries at Vassar are extraordinary and rank among the very best liberal arts collections in the United States both in the number of titles (over 1,000,000 volumes) and in their exceptional variety and depth. The libraries include the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library, considered one of the most beautiful Collegiate Gothic buildings in the country; the Helen D. Lockwood Library; the Van Ingen Art Library; the George Sherman Dickinson Music Library; and the Martha Rivers and E. Bronson Ingram Library, which also houses the Catherine Pelton Durrell Archives and Special Collections Library.
The Vassar Libraries effectively merge traditional materials with newer technologies, giving students extraordinary access to a broad range of print materials (books, journals, manuscripts, rare books, and archives) and electronic resources (electronic journals, indexes, full-text indexes, databases, web-based resources, and videos). Vassar College is a government documents depository and has been part of the Federal Depository Library Program since 1943. The library routinely schedules programs and workshops to teach students how to utilize these resources efficiently.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center houses one of the oldest college art collections in the country and has been named one of “the best university art museums in America” by Architectural Digest. The collection contains more than 21,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs spanning the history of art from ancient Egypt to the present. It is particularly noted for its collection of 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, Greek and Roman sculpture and ceramics, Old Master prints, 19th-century British watercolors and drawings, and photographs. In addition to the main gallery, the Art Center also includes a sculpture garden; a project gallery for short-term exhibitions related to academic work; the Hoene Hoy Photography Gallery; a seminar room where members of the campus community can request particular works to be brought for close examination; and an online searchable collection database.
Computing and Information Services
Computing and Information Services (CIS) creates and manages a campus environment to enable the productive use of information technologies for teaching, learning, research, administration and outreach.
CIS provides Wi-Fi networking throughout the campus.
The Service Desk is centrally located in the College Center to provide IT support, ID card services, technology training, and certified Apple and Dell repairs. Media Resources, also located in the College Center, provides classroom support, poster printing, and loaners AV equipment.
Public computers, available in the College Center, the library and dormitories, provides students access to shared software, academic resources and printers. The library is home to the Design Studio and Collaboration Studio, spaces for learning, collaboration, and technology exploration. Other technology-enhanced facilities managed by CIS include a scientific visualization lab and a geographic information systems (GIS) Lab.
CIS offers Google Apps for Education as a communication and collaboration tool for students, faculty and employees. CIS also provides Office 365 licenses on request and other specialized applications in computer labs and public areas. Additional services include technology training, audio recording facilities, 3D scanning and printing, and drone-based photography and videography.
The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve
An invaluable resource for the entire community, the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve encompasses over 525 acres, most of which are actively managed as an ecological preserve. The preserve contains a wide range of habitats–floodplain forests, shrublands, old fields, wetlands, streams, and ponds. Located on the preserve, the Priscilla Bullitt Collins Field Station houses a classroom, laboratory, and a weather station. Exploring Science at Vassar Farm, an educational outreach program that introduces local school children to hands-on science and gives Vassar students training as science educators, is based at the field station. The field station supports science classes and numerous ongoing faculty-student research projects as well as field work and environmental outreach efforts. Adjacent to the preserve are the Vassar Barns, rugby fields, community gardens, and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, a member-supported organic farm. The Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns, an outreach and education initiative, supports local and regional conservation and environmental efforts. The farm also has a network of trails used for recreation and by the Vassar cross country team.
The Art Department’s offerings are divided into three areas of study–art history, studio art, and architecture–each with its own resources. Based in Taylor Hall in between the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and the Art Library, the department offers direct access to Vassar’s extraordinary collections as well as courses covering the full range of art worldwide in lecture halls and seminar rooms equipped with state-of-the-art projection systems. The Studio Art program has sculpture and printmaking facilities in the Doubleday Studio Arts Building, drawing studios in Ely Hall, and photography, new media and video, and painting studios in New Hackensack, where studio art majors also have individual studios. Architectural study takes place in New Hackensack and Taylor Hall in studios equipped not only with traditional drafting tools but CAD and graphic design workstations.
The Dance Department in Kenyon Hall features three dance studios, the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater with a fully sprung dance stage and seating for 244, a rehearsal green room, and production facilities.
The Drama Department is located in the Vogelstein Center, which houses a 320-seat theater with a traditional proscenium stage, a small black box studio, and production spaces and classrooms equipped with advanced technology. The department also produces work in the Hallie Flanagan Davis Powerhouse Theater, a black box theater seating 135.
Sanders Classroom is home to the English Department, with seminar rooms for discussion-based teaching, lecture rooms, a 158-seat auditorium, and a computer classroom for the study of digital media.
Also headquartered in the Vogelstein, the Film Department’s facilities include the Rosenwald Film Theater, a screening space with surround sound, 35mm and advanced digital projectors; a sound-proof studio equipped with lighting grid and green screen; and high tech classrooms/editing labs devoted to film editing, digital editing, Avid systems, and multimedia.
The Belle Skinner Hall of Music, home to the Music Department, houses the Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall, a small chamber concert hall, one of the nation’s finest college music libraries (with nearly 75,000 books, scores, and sound and visual recordings), an electronic music studio, practice rooms and faculty studios, and the college’s extensive historic and modern instrument collections, including 65 Steinway pianos, four harpsichords, and six pipe organs, among them an organ designed for the Martel Recital Hall by master organ builder Paul Fritts of Tacoma, Washington.
Foreign Languages and Literatures
The modern language and literature departments of French and Franchophone Studies, German Studies, Hispanic Studies, Italian, and Russian Studies are located in Chicago Hall which houses the Foreign Language Resource Center (FLRC), a multimedia facility incorporating a networked computer classroom, a 30-seat film and video theater/lecture space, video viewing facilities for individual and small group use, and media production studios. All classrooms in Chicago support Internet-based and multimedia presentations, and direct foreign language television is available through satellite-based providers. The Asian Studies Program offers instruction in Korean language, with classes held in Chicago Hall. The Department of Chinese and Japanese is housed in Sanders Classroom, which features seminar rooms, lecture rooms, “smart” classrooms, and a 158-seat auditorium. Also located in Sanders Classroom is the Department of Greek and Roman Studies, which offers instruction in Greek and Latin language and in the literatures and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.
The social science departments (Anthropology, Economics, Education, Geography, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, and Sociology) are housed in Blodgett Hall, Ely Hall, the Maria Mitchell Observatory, Rockefeller Hall, and Swift Hall. In each of these buildings, besides department lounges and libraries, there are classrooms designed for discussion-based teaching and lecturing, classrooms equipped with computer projection, and computer laboratories with discipline-specific software.
The Department of Anthropology, located in Blodgett Hall, has laboratories for archaeology and biological anthropology as well as for digital media and sound analysis. The Archaeology Labs contain equipment for analysis and curation of artifacts, mapping and spatial analyses of field sites, and the identification of animal bones from North American contexts. The Biological Anthropology Labs contain equipment for conducting three-dimensional and virtual reality analyses of primates, and an extensive collection of replica skeletons and brain endocasts from non-human primate species. The Language, Culture and History Lab supports transcription, video editing, digital humanities and “intensive” courses.
The Natural Sciences
The sciences reside in the Integrated Science Commons, in Rockefeller and Ely halls, and the Class of 1951 Observatory. These buildings have “smart” classrooms, faculty offices, labs, and sophisticated instrumentation specific to each discipline in addition to resources shared across the natural science departments and related interdepartmental and multidisciplinary programs.
The Integrated Science Commons includes four buildings, fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration: Olmsted Hall, Sanders Physics, and New England Building as well as the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, spanning the Fonteyn Kill and connected to Olmsted. This science-focused area of campus houses the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, and Psychological Science as well as labs supporting Biochemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Studies, and Neuroscience and Behavior.
The Biology Department (Bridge for Laboratory Sciences and Olmsted Hall) supports the process of biological inquiry from molecules to ecosystems. Major instrumentation and facilities include genomic/proteomic/biochemical instrumentation; a cell imaging facility, including epifluorescent and confocal microscopes with image acquisition and analysis tools; a scientific visualization laboratory; plant and animal physiological instruments, cell culturing facilities, including sterile cell culture; a large greenhouse an herbarium; a phytotron facility; a vivarium that includes an aquatic organism laboratory and sound and video analysis instrumentation and an evolutionary robotics laboratory with a 3D printer. The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, with a field laboratory, is a fully-functioning outdoor field research station located in walking distance from Olmsted Hall.
The Chemistry Department is located in the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences. Chemistry faculty and students carry out experiments using an extensive array of state-of-the-art instrumentation for molecular structure determination, spectroscopy, chromatography, and other specialized techniques. Major research instrumentation funded by the National Science Foundation includes a liquid chromatography electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometer (LC-ESI-MS) used to study the structure and composition of lipids and proteins, and a charge-coupled device (CCD) dual source X-ray diffractometer used to determine the three-dimensional molecular structure. Recent acquisitions include a 400 MHz nuclear magentic resonance (NMR) spectrometer and an ion-chromatograph coupled to an inductively-coupled-plasma mass spectrometer (IC-ICP-MS).
The Cognitive Science Department (New England Building and Olmsted Hall) maintains state-of-the-art laboratories for research in human electroencephalography, human behavioral studies, computational modeling, and robotics. In addition, the department uses other facilities on campus for teaching and research, including the Wimpfheimer Nursery School for studies of cognitive development and the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory for studies in human-machine interaction as well as work with autonomous robots.
The Computer Science Department (Sanders Physics) has its own hardware lab and machine room. The machine room is equipped with a full complement of Linux servers and Virtual Machines, behind a firewall, on a dedicated network of 60 Linux workstations–around 50 of which are available 24 hours a day in our two computer labs. Students may also access on-campus HPC (High-Performance Computing) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) computer clusters supporting multiple parallel, distributed, and grid computing paradigms. These computational resources collectively support faculty and student exploration and research in areas such as artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, natural language processing, multi-agent systems, temporal networks, computer animation, computer games, distributed algorithms, mobile computing, vehicular networks, distributed systems, parallel computing,evolutionary computing, bioinformatics, robotics, programming languages, computer security, and data science. Many of these areas are multidisciplinary in nature, and involve collaborations among faculty and students across the college.
The Department of Earth Science and Geography (Ely Hall) has laboratories devoted to research in geophysics, climate change, water and sediment chemistry, and Geographic
Information Systems (GIS). Major instrumentation includes an X-ray diffractometer for studying crystal structures, a laser diffraction particle size analyzer, a coulometer and Chittick apparatus for carbon analysis, an alkalinity titrator, and a 19-seat GIS computer lab for cartography, spatialdata analysis, and numerical modeling. The department makes extensive use of the environmental sciences lab, located in the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, for teaching and research. The department also maintains field equipment such as sediment samplers and corers, stream gauges, Yellowsprings Instruments sondes for in-stream water chemistry monitoring, tablet PCs, a weather station at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, and Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers for field work and environmental investigations.
The Mathematics and Statistics Department is located in Rockefeller Hall. Facilities include classrooms, offices, display spaces, and a lounge-library that houses a collection of books of particular interest to mathematics undergraduates.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy (Sanders Physics) provides computer laboratories equipped for work in observational astronomy (image processing and data analysis) and computational physics. Physics research labs contain multiple laser systems, including 6-Watt and 4-Watt 532-nm continuous-wave lasers and an ultrafast laser capable of producing sub-picosecond pulses. The applied optics lab is equipped for spectroscopy and applications such as characterizing the motion of microscopic organisms. A high-vacuum sputter coater is available for the growth of metal films that can be as thin as a few nanometers.
Physics teaching labs are equipped with instrumentation for majors to perform various classic experiments, including measurements of cosmic rays, the interference of light waves, and the fundamental constants of nature. Experiments on quantum optics, optical tweezers, and surface plasmons are available for advanced students for their intensive, independent projects. Observational astronomy takes place in the Class of 1951 Observatory, described below.
The Class of 1951 Observatory includes a double-domed structure which houses a 32-inch reflecting telescope (tied for largest in New York State) and a 20-inch reflecting telescope. Each is equipped with a CCD camera and spectrograph. There are also several small telescopes, including an historic 8” refractor, and a solar telescope. The observatory also has a warm room for controlling the telescopes, a classroom, and an observation deck. Students also conduct research using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the ALMA Radio Telescope, and other national observatories.
The Psychological Science Department (New England Building and Olmsted Hall) maintains state-of-the-art laboratories for research in physiology, neurochemistry, experimental learning, and electrophysiology, as well as observation and testing suites with sophisticated audio and video recording equipment for the study of development, individual differences, and social behavior. In addition, the Wimpfheimer Nursery School, described below, serves as an on-campus laboratory for students pursuing coursework and research in developmental psychology.
The Scientific Visualization Laboratory, located in the Bridge for Laboratory Science building, is a multidisciplinary computing space dedicated to research and teaching in the natural sciences. It is designed to be both a classroom for sessions requiring the use of high-end software tools and a research facility where Vassar faculty and students develop individual and collaborative projects. It is equipped with high-end multiprocessor workstations as well as state-of-the-art audiovisual hardware.
The Wimpfheimer Nursery School, one of the first laboratory schools in the U.S., has a two-fold mission: to provide high quality early childhood education and to serve as a laboratory for observation and research on child development and education. Students taking courses in developmental psychology, educational theory and cognitive science routinely use Wimpfheimer for observation and research.
The Bridge for Laboratory Sciences incorporates the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, the first at an undergraduate institution in the U.S. The facility enables exploration of the technology of autonomous machines, the simulation of such systems for purposes such as the study of animal evolution, and the use of these technologies in studies of telepresence, virtual reality, and related phenomenon.
The Class of 1951 Observatory includes a double-domed structure which houses a 32-inch reflecting telescope (tied for largest in New York State) and a 20-inch reflecting telescope. Each is equipped with a CCD camera and spectograph. There are also several small telescopes and a solar telescope. The observatory also has a warm room for controlling the telescopes, a classroom, and an observation deck. Students also conduct research using data from the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and other national observatories.
Interdepartmental and Multidisciplinary Resources
Interdepartmental programs (Biochemistry, Earth Science and Society, Geography-Anthropology, and Victorian Studies) and multidisciplinary programs (Africana Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, International Studies, Jewish Studies, Latin American and Latino/a Studies, Media Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Neuroscience and Behavior, Science, Technology, and Society, Urban Studies, and Women’s Studies) have the use of all of the division and department resources that are relevant to their fields of study.
The Residential Campus
Main Building and College Center
Main Building, Vassar’s oldest and largest building, is the heart of the residential campus. A handsome and monumental structure designed by James Renwick Jr., it houses the Office of the President, the College Center, and other administrative offices. The top three floors serve as a residence hall for approximately 300 students. In 1986, Main was named a National Historic Landmark, along with the Empire State Building and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The College Center, at the rear of Main Building, is the hub of campus life. The center provides rooms for social, educational, and extracurricular activities and auxiliary services for the college community. It houses the Office of Campus Activities, a mail room and copy center, a computer store, the WVKR radio station, offices for student government, organizations, and publications, the Retreat dining area, and Matthew’s Mug.
The College Center also includes the College Information Center, the James W. Palmer III ‘90 Gallery, and the multipurpose room. The College Information Center disseminates information about campus events as well as local area events and points of interest. The Palmer Gallery is open year-round with rotating exhibitions featuring the work of faculty, students, local artists, and arts organizations.
Residential life is an essential component of a Vassar education, giving students the opportunity to experience the value of being part of a diverse community. In addition to Main, there are seven coeducational residence houses, one house for women only, and one cooperative. Most students live in one of these houses through their junior year. Most seniors (and some juniors) choose to live in one of the college’s partially furnished apartment complexes-the Town Houses, Terrace Apartments, and South Commons. Within easy walking distance of the library and academic buildings, these apartments house four to five students, each with his or her own bedroom.
The residence houses are self-governing and self-directing, with leadership provided by elected student officers and members of the residential life staff. House fellows-faculty members who live in the residence houses, many with families-help to create a sense of community. They serve as informal academic advisors and play a major role in the intellectual and cultural life of the house. Working with the house fellows are house advisors, full-time residential life professionals. Each house advisor oversees the operation of two residence halls and provides ongoing support to house leaders and residents.
Students, too, are important members of the residential life team. Chosen and trained by Residential Life, student fellows work with the first-year students on their halls to make the transition to life at Vassar as smooth as possible. Each residence has a house student adviser who coordinates the activities of the student fellows. Finally, every residence elects student officers who help provide leadership in the houses. The president of the house sits on the Vassar Student Association Council, the legislative body of the student government.
In collaboration with the award-winning food service company Bon Appetit, Vassar offers a campus dining program designed to meet the dietary needs of a wide variety of students with non-vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, gluten-free, and kosher options. The primary dining venue, Gordon Commons, features an open and welcoming environment. Students have unlimited access to Gordon Commons and can swipe into the dining hall any time it is open (daily until 1am), whether they want to grab a quick snack or a piece of fruit or to sit down to a full meal.
In addition to Gordon Commons, Campus Dining offers options in other convenient locations for members of the community who want to grab a bite to eat or a beverage. The Retreat in the College Center serves breakfast and lunch with made-to-order sandwiches and grill items, soups and salads, daily specials, and more. The Vassar Express, also in the College Center, offers self-serve breakfast and lunch options. In the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, the Bridge Café serves breakfast and lunch.
Student Government and Extracurricular Activities
The Vassar Student Association (VSA), the student government represents the students of the college. The VSA Executive Board is composed of seven elected officers who act as a team to oversee the day-to-day operations of the VSA. They serve on VSA Senate and meet weekly to discuss issues, agenda items for senate meetings, and funding requests. Their office is located in College Center 207, and their weekly office hours are open to all interested students.
The VSA Senate, the legislative body of the student government, is made up of three senators from each class, one each in the areas of Activities, Student Affairs, and Strategic Planning, as well as other Committee Chairs and Co-Chairs, in addition to the Executive Board. The Senate meets weekly on Sunday nights at 7:00pm in New England 105. Meetings are open to all students, minutes are public, and any student may bring agenda items.
The VSA leadership represents the student body in college policy-making, which affects both educational and personal lives. The VSA leadership works with the faculty, administration, alumnae/i, and trustees. Students are elected to serve on many important committees of the college, such as the Committee on Curricular Policies, the Committee on College Life, and the Campus Master Planning Committee. Students are also selected to serve on various panels, convened throughout the year to evaluate cases of academic and conduct violations.
One of the VSA’s main functions is to oversee student organizations and interest groups and to allocate funds to support them. Any student can begin an organization. At the beginning of each semester, students can apply to form a Preliminary Organization with the VSA Chair of Organizations and gain access to many of the resources available to student organizations. After demonstrating sustainability over several semesters, the Preliminary Organization can apply to become a full VSA organization to receive an official budget.
The range of student organizations is as broad and as diverse as the interests of Vassar students. There are currently well over 145 organizations and club sports–political groups, social action groups, newspapers and literary magazines, comedy troupes, and many others.
Performing Arts: There are numerous student drama groups–Future Waitstaff of America, Idlewild, Merely Players, Philaletheis, Shakespeare Troupe, Unbound, and the Woodshed Theater Ensemble–who produce plays throughout the academic year in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater. In some cases they produce traditional repertoire, but they often showcase new works by student playwrights as well. There are also several comedy troupes, each with its own style and performing tradition–Improv, Happily Ever Laughter, No Offense, Indecent Exposure–as well as numerous a cappella groups, several dance troupes, a circus arts group, several instrumental and choral ensembles.
Publications/Communications: Vassar students publish the Miscellany News, a weekly paper, and the Vassarion, the college yearbook. In addition, there are numerous student literary magazines and political journals as well as an FM radio station, WVKR, one of the most powerful college stations in New York State.
Cultural/Religious/Identity Groups: The Vassar community includes students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Cultural, religious, and identity groups include Access, African Students Union, Asian Students Alliance, Black Students Union, Caribbean Students Alliance, Catholic Community, Christian Fellowship, Council of Black Seniors, Episcopal Church of Vassar College, MEChA, Poder Latino, South Asian Students Alliance, Transmission, Unitarian Universalists, Vassar Jewish Union, Vassar Muslim Students Union, the Vassar International Students Association, and Vassar Voices for Planned Parenthood.
Service/Political Action: Vassar has a long tradition of social activism and volunteer work. Some of the service and political action groups include: Amnesty International, Challah for Hunger, CHOICE, College Democrats, Democracy Matters, Feminist Alliance, Forum for Political Thought, Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics, Habitat for Humanity, Hunger Action, Vassar Animal Rights Coalition, Vassar Haiti Project, the Vassar Prison Initiative, Vassar Refugee Solidarity, and more.
Clubs/Organizations: The list is never complete because groups form and disband in response to student interests and initiatives, but a sampling of active clubs and organizations includes: Aikido Club, Ceramics Club, Debate Society, Equestrian Club, French Club, Outing Club, PHOCUS Photography Club, Run Vassar, Ski Team, Vassar Bikes, Vassar Filmmakers, Vassar Quidditch, and Vassar Ultimate Frisbee. For the full list of student organizations and their contact information, visit the VSA website at http://vsa.vassar.edu/activities/organizations
Sports and Fitness
The college’s goal in athletics and physical education is to meet the full range of needs of a diverse community–from scholar-athletes among the top competitors in their sports to weekend players looking for recreation to non-athletes interested in keeping fit. The athletics and physical education program offers a wide range of intercollegiate varsity, club, intramural, recreational, and fitness options.
Vassar is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III, the Liberty League, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and also competes in the Seven Sisters Championships. On the varsity level, women compete in basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, track, and volleyball. Men compete in baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, lacrosse, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, track, and volleyball. Club teams include badminton, cycling, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s and women’s rugby, sailing, skiing, Ultimate Frisbee, and weight lifting. Intramural sports include badminton, basketball, flag football, golf, ping pong, indoor and outdoor soccer, softball, squash, tennis, and coed volleyball, among others.
The Athletics and Fitness Center is a 53,000-square-foot facility that includes a 1,200-seat basketball gym, an elevated running track, and a 5,000-square-foot weight training/cardiovascular facility. Walker Field House, adjacent to the Athletics and Fitness Center, contains five tennis courts and accommodates a variety of sports including volleyball, basketball, fencing, and badminton. The building also houses a six-lane swimming pool with a four-foot moveable bulkhead and diving well, locker rooms, and a sports medicine facility. Kenyon Hall contains six international squash courts, a volleyball-only gymnasium, a varsity weight room, and a rowing room.
Outdoor facilities include a nine-hole golf course, 13 tennis courts, and numerous playing fields. Prentiss Field Complex has a quarter-mile all-weather track, four soccer fields, field hockey game and practice fields, and a baseball diamond. The J. L. Weinberg Field Sports Pavilion, opened in 2003, includes locker rooms, a sports medicine facility, and a laundry facility. The Vassar College Farm contains a rugby field and practice grids. Rowing facilities include a boathouse and a 16-acre parcel of land on the Hudson River.