The Vassar Campus
The campus itself is a little paradise — not so little, actually. The main campus, where most of the academic and residential buildings are, is about 500 acres — sweeping lawns, woodland paths, over 200 species of trees (the campus is actually an arboretum), a meandering stream, and the Shakespeare Garden. It's breathtaking in every season, but fall and spring are particularly magnificent.
Across the road from the main campus is the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, which provided the food for the college dining hall until the 1950s. Today, over 400 acres are designated as an ecological preserve with a field station where the various science departments carry out research. The rest of the farm is home to the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (a member-supported organic farm), the Environmental Cooperative at the Vassar Barns (a community organization focused on local conservation efforts), the Vassar rugby team, and miles and miles of cross-country and mountain biking trails. Students can purchase shares of organically-grown produce from the Poughkeepsie Farm Project and participate in a variety of volunteer and research opportunities.
New York City
Vassar's proximity to New York City is hugely beneficial for both educational and social reasons. The Poughkeepsie Train Station (with service from Metro-North and Amtrak) is a five-minute ride from campus, with trains running to Grand Central throughout the day. Many students commute to the city once a week to do community-engaged learning for academic credit in galleries, museums, social service agencies, publishing houses, financial services companies, law firms, and the like. Culturally, of course, there's just no place like NYC — Broadway, Lincoln Center, the Met, Madison Square Garden, Greenwich Village, etc. Plus, the train goes both ways. Performers, playwrights, politicians, and poets who live and work in the city come to lecture at Vassar — people like Tony Kushner, Sarah Vowell, and David Sedaris.
Like other river towns along the Hudson, Poughkeepsie went into decline decades ago when downtown shoppers were lured away by the novelty of shopping malls, but the city is now undergoing a renaissance, with artists and entrepreneurs reclaiming its historic Victorian homes and shops.
For Vassar students, Poughkeepsie is an invaluable social science laboratory, with multiple opportunities for community-engaged learning, volunteer work, and research in sociology and urban studies. Vassar is one of the founding members (along with other area colleges) of the Poughkeepsie Institute, a multidisciplinary course that, each year, focuses on a particular urban issue and then presents its findings to civic leaders. One recent topic was the impact of the arts on urban revitalization.
The Hudson Valley
The Hudson Valley is a national treasure — unsurpassed natural beauty, quaint villages, world-class rock climbing and hiking, and major art destinations. Designated a National Heritage Area by Congress in 1966, the valley has more major historic sites per square mile than any other area in the U.S. — to mention just a few, the home of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph (and one of the original Vassar trustees); Franklin D. Roosevelt's boyhood home; Olana, the home of Frederic Church, one of the principal painters of the Hudson River School. It's also, incidentally, the birthplace of the environmental movement and the home port of the late Pete Seeger's Sloop Clearwater.