Student Services and Activities
A Community of Special Character
Among the stated purposes of Vassar College (p. 7) are the “increased knowledge of oneself, a humane concern for society, and a commitment to an examined and evolving set of values.” Vassar, therefore, seeks to sustain a community of special character in which people of divergent views and backgrounds come together to study and live.
New students traditionally sign the book of matriculation, thereby agreeing to uphold the letter and spirit of college regulations, to maintain the values of the academy which is Vassar, and to preserve the integrity of the institution.
Respect for others is central to Vassar. The college expects its students to be mindful of their responsibilities to one another and to engage actively in the creation of a community of intellectual freedom, mutually-understood dignity, and civil discourse.
Academic and Nonacademic Advising and Counseling
Students may seek academic advice from the dean of studies, the dean of freshmen, the advisers to sophomores, juniors, or seniors, their pre-major or major adviser, and informal advice from the house fellows or from individual faculty members. The dean of students and the director of residential life provide advice on nonacademic matters, as do the house advisers.
Entering students are assigned to faculty premajor advisers until they decide on an area of concentration, when they are given departmental or program advisers. Faculty members assist students with registration and the selection of a -concentration.
The Learning and Teaching Center offers individual assistance and workshops in writing and quantitative skills, study skills, time management, and test preparation. Academic coaching is also offered to students registered with the Office of Disability and Support Services. The Office of Career Development provides advice and assistance to students and alumnae/i as they investigate career options and apply for employment and internships. The Office for Preprofessional Advising and Fellowships coordinates advising for those students interested in preparing for entry into health profession schools and schools of law and works in concert with a faculty committee to assist students who wish to apply for fellowships.
The Counseling Service, staffed by psychologists and a consulting psychiatrist, provides confidential help for students who have personal concerns. Counseling on special problems is also provided by the physicians at the health service, the director of the office of religious and spiritual life, the director of the office for campus community and the director of the office for disability and support services.
Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
In keeping with the long-standing traditions of the college and the spirit and letter of the federal and state equal opportunity laws, Vassar is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive working and learning environment. In support of this mission, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is responsible for the development, coordination, and implementation of Vassar’s equal opportunity and affirmative action policies and programs. The EOAA office offers educational programs and workshops on equity, civil rights, and affirmative action, monitors college policies and procedures for compliance with state and federal equal opportunity laws, and administers informal and formal grievance procedures with respect to the college’s nondiscrimination and nonharassment policy.
Individuals may contact the office to request guidance on Vassar’s nondiscrimination and nonharassment policy and grievance procedures, request mediation or explore other avenues of informal conflict resolution in relation to a specific situation, or file a formal complaint of alleged discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment. The equal opportunity and affirmative action officer and the faculty director of affirmative action, reporting directly to the president, carry out the work of the office in consultation and collaboration with the Committee on Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
The athletics program is an integral component of the total educational experience at Vassar. The offerings not only complement and provide a balance to Vassar’s rich and demanding academic life, but also help to promote a sense of community. Opportunities to participate in Athletics are provided for everyone through a wide range of intercollegiate varsity, club, intramural, and recreational programs.
The 23-team varsity intercollegiate programs compete in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The goal of the intercollegiate athletic program is to offer each varsity team member the opportunity and the challenge to achieve his or her maximum potential as an athlete within Vassar’s atmosphere of academic excellence. To this end Vassar has produced All-Americans, national qualifiers, state, regional, and conference champions, as well as many scholar-athlete award winners.
In addition to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III, Vassar is a member of the Liberty League and competes in the following sports: baseball, basketball, cross-country, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis and women’s volleyball. The Liberty League provides an ideal opportunity to compete within an excellent athletic conference that includes: Clarkson, Hamilton, Hobart/William Smith, Rensselaer, Rochester, St. Lawrence, Skidmore and Union. Vassar is also a member of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), the New York State Women’s Collegiate Athletics Association (NYSWCAA), and competes in the Seven Sisters Championships.
The club program gives the opportunity for intercollegiate competition and student leadership in nonvarsity sports.
The intramural program includes competitive and recreational levels of play in many sports for those who seek competition, fun, exercise, or just a change from the rigors of study without the intense commitment required of varsity participation.
Walker Field House, renovated in 1998, features a new tennis/multipurpose playing surface with indirect lighting. The 42,250 square feet of floor space contains five tennis courts and accommodates a variety of sports including volleyball, basketball, fencing, and badminton. The building also houses a six-lane Olympic-sized swimming pool with a four-foot moveable bulkhead and diving well, renovated locker rooms, and a new sports medicine facility. The new athletic and fitness facility is a 53,000-square foot athletic facility that includes a 1,200 seat basketball gym, an elevated running track, a 5,000 square foot weight training/cardiovascular facility, a multipurpose room, locker rooms, administrative offices, and a laundry/uniform room.
Kenyon Hall is named in honor of the late Helen Kenyon, class of 1905, the first woman chair of the board of trustees. Kenyon Hall contains six international squash courts, a much improved volleyball court (now with uplighting and a NCAA approved plastic playing surface), and a varsity weight room and rowing room.
On-campus outdoor facilities include a nine-hole golf course, 13 tennis courts, and numerous playing fields. Prentiss Field has a quarter-mile all-weather track, two soccer fields, field hockey game and practice fields, and a baseball diamond. The J. L. Weinberg Field Sports Pavilion, opened in 2003, includes six locker rooms, a sports medicine facility, and a laundry facility. The Vassar College Farm contains a rugby field and practice grids. The intercollegiate rowing program facilities include a boathouse and a 16-acre parcel of land on the Hudson River.
On the varsity level, women compete in basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, and volleyball. Men compete in baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, and volleyball. Club teams include badminton, cycling, men’s and women’s rugby, sailing, skiing, track, ultimate Frisbee, and weight lifting. Intramural sports include badminton, basketball, billiards, bowling, chess, floor hockey, touch football, golf, ping pong, indoor and outdoor soccer, softball, squash, tennis, coed volleyball, and inner tube water polo.
For a full list of coaching staff, see Department of Athletics and Physical Education.
The Campus Life Office coordinates programs and services for improving the quality of student and campus life in an inclusive community. Through a variety of campus-wide programs such as the Campus Life Resource Group (CLRG), intergroup dialogues, Conversation Dinners, and resource centers for ALANA, LGBTQ, and women students, we work to build affirming campus environments and encourage student engagement across groups. The Campus Life Office plans the annual All College Day in February which brings students, faculty, administrators, and staff together for a day of discussions and dialogues. The office is also committed to working with “first year students” as they explore avenues for contributing to the intellectual and community life of the college.
The ALANA Center provides a myriad of resources and programs to enhance the campus life and academic experiences of African-American/Black, Latino, Asian and Native American students. The center offers opportunities for leadership development, intra-cultural and cross-cultural dialogues, lectures, big sister/big brother and alumnae/i mentoring programs. A comfortable and affirming gathering space is also provided for student organizations with similar goals in supporting students of color. As an extension of cultural/social and academic initiatives, resources for interacting with various communities in Poughkeepsie and surrounding areas are provided. Other resources include cultural journals/newsletters, educational videos, career development, scholarship and fellowship information and a computer lab.
Blegen House is a multicultural center for the “study of social change,” staffed by a director and student interns who foster a spirit of inquiry as they offer a Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Queer (LBGTQ) viewpoint to the academic discourse. The center hosts discussions and social events, and provides space for CARES, a student-run group dedicated to raising awareness of relationship violence and sexual abuse. The house also serves as a bridge to the Poughkeepsie community through a group for local LBGTQ high school students, and a chapter of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere.
The Women’s Center is a resource center staffed by student interns who plan film screenings, lectures, and discussions on a range of topics; they collaborate with other student interns and student organizations to promote gender equity. Faculty members from the Women’s Studies Program provide support through curricular and co-curricular advising.
The objective of the Office of Career Development is to assist students in developing, evaluating, and effectively initiating career plans. We believe career choices are a reflection of one’s interests, values, and skills. Understanding the connections among the three is a catalyst in enabling a person to find meaning in his or her life’s work. The options are many for students who pursue a liberal arts curriculum and self understanding is often the first step.
Services are designed to assist students in all phases of the developmental process. Specifically, services focus on 1) increasing self-awareness, 2) exploring career options, 3) integrating life and work planning, and 4) securing employment and/or further educational opportunities.
Since effective career planning involves life planning as part of a continual process, we offer assistance throughout the college years and after graduation. For detailed information, please access our home page, or visit our office at Main Building, South Wing.
The Counseling Service provides a variety of services to help students and the campus community handle the problems associated with academics, college life, and personal development. Services include: individual, couple, and group counseling and psychotherapy; crisis intervention; educational programs; consultation; assessment; and referral to off-campus services. Services are free of charge to Vassar College students.
The staff of the counseling service is made up of mental health professionals who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy of diversity. As part of the College community, counselors are committed to the personal and academic development of all Vassar students. The counselors are trained in the disciplines of clinical and counseling psychology and clinical social work, and work with students to explore personal problems and concerns in a secure and private setting. Students come to the Counseling Service for a variety of reasons, for example: relationship problems with parents, peers or partners, depression, anxiety, alcohol and other drug use and abuse, coming out issues, stress, concerns about academic progress or direction, or assistance in planning for the future. The student and the counselor work out the details and the course of counseling jointly.
Counselors often refer students to resources outside of the Vassar community depending on the needs of the student and the limitations of the Counseling Service. Students referred for treatment off campus may use their health insurance to defray the cost. Off-campus services are the responsibility of the student and/or the student’s family.
The Counseling Service offers a variety of groups, some with a specific focus such as eating disorders or the concerns of children of alcoholics. Other groups are more general such as process groups on relationships or psychotherapy. Groups are formed at the beginning of each semester and typically meet once a week. A list of groups is publicized at the start of each semester.
Confidentiality, a highest priority at the Counseling Service, is often a concern for students. Strict ethical principles and codes of conduct govern the Counseling Service, ensuring confidentiality within specific legal limits. Counseling records are separate from academic and medical records at the college and are not available to college offices outside of the Counseling Service.
A consulting psychiatrist is affiliated with the Counseling Service. Limited psychiatric services are available at Metcalf by referral from a counselor. If continuing psychiatric services are required, a referral is made to a private psychiatrist.
Disability and Support Services
In accordance with the provisions the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Vassar College is committed to providing qualified students with disabilities equal access and opportunity to its academic courses, programs, and activities. The Office of Disability and Support Services (DSS) serves self-identified students with visual, mobility and hearing impairments and students with hidden disabilities such as chronic medical conditions, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, psychiatric disabilities, and substance use/recovery. The office’s primary mission is to foster academic excellence, self-advocacy, personal responsibility, and growth.
A student in need of first accommodations, auxiliary aids, or services must self-identify to DSS and provide appropriate documentation of their disability or disabilities. After registering with the office, DSS works with the student and necessary faculty and administration to identify accommodations and services that are appropriate to their needs, academic program, and campus life experience. Students are expected to be actively involved in the accommodation process and assume responsibility for securing services and accommodations.
Fellowships and Preprofessional Advising
The Office for Fellowships and Preprofessional Advising works with students and recent graduates who pursue admission to professional schools, particularly in the fields of health and law, as well as with those who apply for fellowships to fund graduate education, independent study, and research. Students interested in these possibilities are encouraged to meet with the director and to consult the available materials relative to their interests. Students interested in application to a health related professional school are encouraged to seek advice from the members of the Pre-Medical Advisory Committee. Early consultation is recommended if one wishes to apply for any professional school, graduate program, or competitive fellowship.
The Health Service at Vassar is designed to promote the health of the individual and the student community and to treat medical issues as they emerge.
Centered in Baldwin House, the Health Service medical staff maintains daily clinics on weekdays for routine medical and gynecological care. In addition to caring for our own infirmary patients, the nursing staff handles acute problems after hours with on-call medical staff backup.
A health fee covers the cost of most medical visits on campus. Charges are made for medications, laboratory work, and gynecologic visits. The college requires that each student carry insurance to defray the cost of off-campus consultation, hospitalization, or emergency room use. A customized student health insurance plan is available to all Vassar students.
New students are required to file a medical history and physical examination with the department before coming to college. Proof of immunization against measles, mumps, rubella, and polio, as well as recent tetanus and TB tests, are mandatory to meet New York State requirements. New York State also requires a Menningitis immunization form. The Hepatitis B vaccine and Varivax are also highly recommended.
The Health Service provides student outreach activities and supports a strong health education program.
The Office of Health Education is committed to the development of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. The office provides support, information, and resources to the student body regarding issues of health and well being.
The Office of International Services offers a full range of resources for our international community of students and scholars, including advice and assistance in visa, immigration, tax, employment, cultural and general matters.
Intercultural competence, the ability to communicate and relate effectively and appropriately with members of another cultural background on their terms, is rapidly becoming a necessary skill among graduates ready to join a global marketplace. Toward this end, we look both to assist internationals in adjusting to and embracing a new culture and also to involve and engage all members of the campus community in events, workshops, and other opportunities to share the wealth of global perspective and experience our campus enjoys.
The office collaborates with the International Studies Program, Office of International Programs, Vassar International Student Association, Office of Career Development, and other offices and organizations in efforts to provide programming that speaks to the college’s mission to promote a global perspective among all our students. Support is provided to the college’s several fine international summer programs.
Learning and Teaching Center
The Learning and Teaching Center, located in the Library, was established in 2003 to support the intellectual life of students and faculty at Vassar. One of the Center’s primary missions is to facilitate students’ realization of their academic potential and achievement of their personal educational goals; another is to promote dialogue and collaboration on academic issues among faculty, librarians, and administrators. To these ends, the Center provides programs designed to support and enhance learning, both in the classroom and throughout the campus.
Learning Specialists work with students to develop their reading, writing, critical thinking and quantitative skills, both in general and in the context of particular courses or assignments. They are also available for consultations on time management, prioritization, organization, note taking, and the adjustment to college-level academic work. The Center offers practice sessions to prepare for graduate and professional school examinations, and sponsors workshops on strategies for academic success, including a series of conversations with faculty designed especially for firstyear students. The Learning Specialists offer individual conferences either by appointment or on a walk-in basis, subject to availability.
Learning specialist services are also available to address the evolving needs of students with disabilities. The Assistant Director of Disability and Support Services offers academic coaching to students registered with the Office of Disability and Support Services through weekly in-office appointments and through consultation by telephone and e-mail.
Library Instruction Services offer a variety of programs to promote awareness of the breadth and depth of the Library’s collections, and to foster students’ ability to use research materials effectively. Students may also arrange research consultations with a reference librarian or with the Peer Library Research Intern.
The Writing Center, also in the library, is a peer tutoring service providing support for students at any stage of the writing process. Writing Interns are specially trained to work with students across disciplines, as well as to consult with professors and class groups on special or ongoing projects.
Religious and Spiritual Life
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) helps students integrate lives of passionate commitment, embodied practice, and intellectual critique at Vassar and beyond. Our programs articulate a lively public role for religious imagination and ensure that opportunities for spiritual and democratic formation are part of the demanding and creative education Vassar offers—for the religiously devoted, the spiritually curious, and the radically questioning.
Religious and Spiritual Life oversees, advises, and supports a wide range of religious and civic communities and initiatives on campus, and plays an important role as a community liaison for the college in the mid-Hudson Valley.
Spirituality and Service programs offer the Vassar Community opportunities for service-learning. Participants receive training, support, and tools for reflection, drawing on the resources of spiritual and religious traditions to sustain and enrich their work.
Peace and Justice programs explore traditions and tools for non-violence in religious and political communities past and present, and bring resources to campus to help students work for peace.
Arts and Celebration gives students skills and materials for creating public art—such as giant puppets, murals, luminaries, sculpture, performance—and practice in shaping community rites of passage to help open up opportunities for transformation and reflection.
Religious Practice, Ritual, and Interpretation are recognized components of learning at Vassar and beyond, and offer shared experiences and opportunities for dialogue that engage questions of the sacred in secular culture.
As part of the support Religious and Spiritual Life staff provide to these program areas, staff members are available for pastoral counseling and spiritual guidance. Buddhist, Episcopal, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, and Roman Catholic advisors and consultants serve the campus community.
Student Employees are an integral part of the daily operation of Vassar College and student jobs are found in nearly 100 departments and offices on the campus. Each semester students fill over 1,600 campus jobs. The mission of the Student Employment Office is to offer employment that matches the educational goals set by each student and to offer jobs that help students gain both professional and personal development.
Financial aid students have priority consideration for campus jobs through the placement process and during exclusive priority periods at the beginning of each semester. College policy limits the number of hours that students may work based upon class year: freshmen may work up to eight hours per week, sophomores nine hours per week, and juniors and seniors may work up to ten hours per week. In addition to the part time employment program that operates during academic periods, the Student Employment Office also administers a small full time employment program for students during the winter, spring and summer breaks. Interested students should inquire at the Student Employment Office.
Student Government and Extracurricular Activities
The Constitution for the Vassar Student Association gives control over social regulations, as well as extracurricular activities, to the students, subject only to an ultimate veto by the president of the college. Organized under a Council of Representatives and elected standing committees, the VSA plays an effective role in the college community.
Student concern for participation in college policy making, which ultimately affects their education as well as their personal lives, is reflected in the Governance of the college, which now recognizes the student body as a separate entity within the corporate community, endowed with rights and responsibilities, and enjoying opportunities for conference with the board of trustees, the faculty, and the administration. Students sit as voting members of the Committee on Curricular Policies, the Committee on College Life, and other committees of the college.
The range of extracurricular activities at Vassar is as broad as the interests of the students. There are currently over 90 organizations and club sports: political groups, a film society, an FM radio station, a weekly newspaper and several magazines, an outdoor club, a circus troupe, and groups focused on social action.
Student Performing Groups
Dance: Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre is a performing group of ballet, modern, and jazz dancers; it is a credited course offering dance students the opportunity to present both their own choreography and professional repertory in the studio theater and off campus. In past years the dancers have performed repertory by Humphrey, Sokolow, Duncan, Balanchine, Nijinska, and Fokine.
Drama: Student theater productions take place throughout the academic year in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater. These extracurricular dramatic and musical productions are initiated by individual students or groups of students in the Philaletheis Society, Woodshed Theater Ensemble, Shakespeare Troupe, Unbound, The Limit, Improv, and Happy Ever Laughter.
Music: The Department of Music sponsors six ensembles: Choir, Madrigal Singers, Women’s Chorus, Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Ensemble. The department offers academic credit for year-long participation in any of these ensembles, and membership is open to all members of the Vassar community by audition. The Choir, a large concert ensemble, regularly performs major works with orchestra and tours periodically in this country and abroad. The Madrigal Singers, a select chamber ensemble, performs unaccompanied vocal music from the Middle Ages through contemporary works. The Women’s Chorus, a concert ensemble, performs both choral-orchestral and a cappellaworks for women’s voices. The sixty-member orchestra performs with student and faculty soloists. The Wind and Jazz ensembles perform in various campus residence halls in addition to their formal presentations. Opera Workshop, also under the sponsorship of the Department of Music, gives an annual performance in Skinner Hall.
Informal singing groups (not affiliated with the music department)—such as the Accidentals, Night Owls, Matthew’s Minstrels, Measure for Measure, and the Vassar College Gospel Choir—perform regularly at other colleges as well as on campus.
The music department has two student-run instrumental groups. The Vassar Camerata is devoted to the performance of music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods, while the Vassar Mahagonny Ensemble is devoted to the performance of music written after 1900 as well as student compositions.