Walking on Main Street in Geneseo is like stepping into a vintage postcard. The 19th-century architecture of the storefronts, in an area designated a National Historic Landmark Village, seems to meld into the 220-acre campus of SUNY—Geneseo. Unlike places where town-gown relations are often uneasy, Geneseo has particularly warm ties to the university. Students and townspeople alike regularly attend Blue Knights sporting events (hockey especially) and student-produced musical and theatrical performances.
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The college also has academic programs that enable undergrads to get hands-on experience in the community, like a marketing project to help a Main Street business. Students make their presence felt in other ways, too. They help out at Livingston County schools and form about a third of the village's volunteer fire department.
Most of Geneseo's nearly 5,000 undergraduates come from New York State and were near the top of their high school class. At an estimated total cost of $20,109 per year for in-state students and $29,159 for out-of-staters, it's seen as a bargain. "It's like any other private liberal arts school for just a fraction of the price," says Doug Sinski, a recent graduate from Huntington, N.Y.
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About one in six students participate in undergraduate research and can receive school-sponsored grants of as much as $650 per semester to pursue initiatives of their choice. Each year the school holds a GREAT Day (Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement, and Talent) so students can showcase their work.
Recent projects have ranged from an anthropological study of the Cinderella story (through its various retellings) to a demonstration on the physics department's Pelletron accelerator. All this extra research seems to pay off. According to post-grad surveys, nearly half of the respondents from the 2010 class went on to graduate or professional school.
Students admit that the area doesn't offer much in the way of entertainment—though there is a free bus to Rochester, 40 minutes away. But 2011 graduate Meghan Pipe, from Miller Place, N.Y., says this simply forces people to be more creative. By organizing lectures, concerts, or activities like a real-life version of the video racing game Mario Kart, undergrads make sure there's enough to do on campus. The fact that so much is student-led allows them to create the ideal environment for themselves, Pipe says.
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