6 Innovative American Colleges And Universities

With so many higher education options for high school graduates to choose from, making a decision can be daunting. But some institutions stand out with unexpected, creative methods of providing high-quality learning experiences. In no particular order, here are some schools in the United States that offer innovative ways to get a degree.

Starting off at #1 is Olin College of Engineering, which was founded in 1997 with some of its distinctive aspects already in place, like having no academic departments or faculty tenure. The freshman curriculum emphasizes hands-on education with an interdisciplinary element. Students are required to study arts, humanities, and social science, and to examine their work's social and environmental impacts.

Olin has been ranked a top three undergraduate engineering program by U.S. News & World Report. One notable initiative at the college is the National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research, where connections are fostered between government, academia, and the telecommunications sector. In addition, the school is undertaking efforts to address systemic racism in higher education.

Coming in at #2 is Davenport University, a sprawling set of campuses across Michigan, plus an option that can be accessed from anywhere via the internet. Those looking for the classic four-year college environment with lots of grassy spaces may seek out the flagship Grand Rapids campus, but there is another location in the same city situated in the middle of the downtown area, better-suited for those who want the advantages of receiving their education in an urban environment.

The school boasts mostly Division II athletic programs, but men's lacrosse, rugby, and one of the multiple ice hockey teams compete in Division I in various leagues. There are also a bevy of other athletic opportunities, including non-varsity and intramural sports.

At #3 is Colorado College, which Forbes has called one of America's top three entrepreneurial colleges. The school offers numerous options for majors, minors, and specialized programs, including the choice to create an Independently Designed Major, or IDM. This allows students to articulate a topic of inquiry to be investigated using at least two different disciplines in conversation with each other.

Another distinctive element of the academic experience at Colorado College is the block plan, in which undergraduates focus on one class at a time. This approach is meant to lengthen the time available for field research, lab hours, and other hands-on learning experiences. It also creates more flexibility for professors to plan educational trips for their students.

The #4 entry is Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where all students begin by choosing between two course sequences. One, The Search for Values or Life, is a collaboration between ten departments that looks at the roots of what is called Western culture. The other is Life: Then and Now, an examination of how religion has shaped history, which begins with a focus on academic study of the Bible, followed by a semester in which students can remain on this path or continue with a course in philosophy or Greek and Roman Studies.

Rhodes has been recognized by Newsweek for its high percentage of students who are engaged in some form of service. Opportunities include Bonner Scholars, who perform labor for the school and community in exchange for financial aid, The Kinney Program, which places undergraduates with local non-profits, a chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and a long-running, student-led soup kitchen called Souper Contact.

For #5, we have Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, named for the French aristocrat who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Undergraduates have opportunities to do original research with professors, sometimes for pay. Students also have numerous study abroad options, with various programs spanning a semester, a summer, or the briefer academic interim periods in January and May.

The school provides plenty of ways to make a difference, such as the Landis Community Outreach Center for local charity projects, and various initiatives that boost sustainability and focus on greening the environment. In addition, students can go to Madagascar to do peer mentoring as part of the Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education.

Our final entry, #6, is Dominican University, a Catholic school located in a suburb of Chicago called River Forest. The institution accommodates working class students by having night classes, and prides itself on its enrollment and graduation rates of economically disadvantaged students.

The university's focus on environmental initiatives is one of its most notable aspects. Examples include the work of the student organization Sustain DU, which runs an annual farm-to-table event, Zero Waste Thanksgiving, and movie nights. The administration's resource consciousness is also reflected in its choice of partners, such as Follett, which operates the school bookstore using sustainable practices like recycling textbooks.