Tell Me About the University of Missouri, Rolla

Oddly, I retired from Fort Leonard Wood, right down the street so to speak, but Marwan in my office seems to be heading to UMR with a scholarship. This will be his first visit to the US.

Perhaps it was because of where I was in my life at that time, but I did not care for Missouri in general. But Marwan needs more objective information than I can provide.

He first question is if Rolla was safe for his young family. Is it Muslim-safe?

Anything else I might pass along to him?

My information isn’t first-hand (I went to Mizzou in Columbia), but lots of my cow-orkers went to Rolla. And it hasn’t changed much, really.

First, it’s basically an Engineering school, and the town is pretty much only the school. Think: small, rural town. Not a lot of things to do, although with a young family that might not be a concern. One of my cow-orkers mentions that daycare wasn’t a concern in Rolla, but his kids were infants at the time so he doesn’t know anything about the school system.

I’d say a large portion of the student body are foreign students, and several Muslim engineers I know went to Rolla and have never said anything bad about the town (other than how boring it is). Quite a few of the faculty are foreign-born, as well, so I would not anticipate any issues while in Rolla.

The nearby area of Missouri – as you may know of from Ft. Leonard Wood – is very rural, conservative, and insular. I feel uncomfortably like an outsider there, and I grew up in Missouri. I’d recommend that weekend getaways either be in the company of larger groups, or to destinations like Columbia, Lake of the Ozarks, or St. Louis.

Woodrow Wilson Smith (Lazarus Long, from Time Enough for Love)'s father went to college there, but that’s probably not much help.

Let me send my friend an e-mail pointing him here. I know you all will give us super advice.

I applied there, but didn’t go–probably a good decision, because I’ve decided not to be an engineer.

It’s an especially good place to go if you’re into mining. A couple kids from my high school went there, and as far as I know, they’re ok with it.

Had a chance to talk to a few more Rolla victims.

They mentioned that quite a few grad students are married, with families, so it’s not something too unusual. Otherwise, though, the students are lopsidedly male. Guess it’s lucky your friend is already married.

Most of their comments were recommendations of other places to go in order to get away from Rolla to do something, with Cape Girardeau and Springfield also mentioned.

I came away with the impression that Rolla is even duller than I’d thought (except for St. Pat’s). And I’d throught it pretty dull.

I’m coming out of hiding to post this…

I’m a Rolla grad, and unless things have changed in the past several years, it’s quite the boring town. Having said that, though, there are some serious upsides to the place.

The University itself only has about 5000-6000 students, and the town has about 15000 residents, so chances are everyone you’ll meet there is affiliated with UMR. There’s a realtively large international population (for a town its size), and like in most places, grad students tand to stick together, so there’s also a built-in support group. Because of the large interational population the town is pretty tolerant, so I don’t think he needs to worry about anti-Muslim sentiment.

Rolla is about a 1.5 hour drive from both St Louis and Springfield, so it’s conveniently close for day or weekend trips. And speaking of driving, cars are an absolute necessity in Rolla. No public transportation at all.

As an engineering campus, the place is fabulous. There are several “unconventional” teaching aides that are not found at most campuses, including a working mine and a nuclear reactor. The professors know what they’re talking about, but can be a little “out there” at times, which is expected for engineering professors.

All told, I enjoyed my time there. The cost of living is almost obscenely low, it’s a pleasant little town and people are friendly, and it’s a good place to learn. But, I’m not rushing back there anytime soon.

Heh. My mother grew up 30 miles from Rolla. I’ve known a number of graduates from there.

Rolla is a small town – if not for the University, it would probably be a ghost town. As noted, it’s primarily an engineering school – not Best of the Best, but certainly in the “pretty damn good” category.

Since there is nothing to do in Rolla (and few women) the young men there tend to make their own fun. There are a lot of fraternities, and a lot of beer.

The Ozarks are not known as the most religiously tolerant of areas, but foreign students have been at Rolla for decades and the town seems happy enough to have them. There is an Islamic Center in Rolla, so I guess Muslims aren’t unheard-of there.

Ditto. I not only went to school at Rolla but worked light construction/material delivery/et cetera in and around the area. While the ethnic population of the town isn’t high–it’s an area settled by German Lutherans, and the genes (and names) are prevelent–most people seemed to be reasonably tolerant, though my controls lab partner (half Black, half American Indian female) had a couple of incidents with teenagers.

Once you get out of town, though, there are some pretty scary-bigoted folk, and a surprising amount of drug use; they may not be a majority but they certainly are vocal, and on occasion well armed. I often didn’t feel really comfortable doing some deliveries; the one to the guy in the constantina-fenced compound with the three snarling rottweilers and the outbuilding full of military hardware and fascist memoriabilia sticks in mind. And don’t even get me started on the crankheads I worked with while working for a roofing contractor.

It’s not someplace I’d care to advise anybody to move to–I’m never going back there–but as long as they stick to the town, I don’t think safety, either from racial threat or crime standpoint, is really an issue. I used to walk around the town at all hours of night without issue or concern. It ain’t a happening place, though.

Stranger

A gentle bump.

Marwan has been approved by the Fulbright people, and Rolla it is. Further, he has visited this thread and appreciated the guidance. Now he has to make up his mind to make this big jump (selling his car, quitting his job and all that).

Anything else to tell him.

Lessee…if he has a family, he’s probably looking for something other than the efficiency apartments that ring the campus. There is a small amount of graduate/indepdent housing “on-campus” but I don’t know if they allow kids or not. Housing prices are, as been previously noted, ridiculously inexpensive (circa 1996, anyway) and there should be a problem finding rental housing reasonably near the campus. I’d look to the north, in the neighborhoods on either side of Kingshighway, which are in walking distance to the campus and relatively close to the Athletic Center.

Food: your friend might be in for a bit of culture shock, there; “ethnic” food is limited to deep-friend Chinese-American stuff (again, circa 1996), and the grocery stores don’t have the greatest stock in the world. You’re deep within the Midwest, and if it ain’t cornfed it ain’t there. Good luck finding lamb or mutton; living in Rolla was definitely the nadir of my culinary life. He can, of course, make a run up to Columbia (~90 minutes away) to get more variety, but be advised. My Thai friends used to have stuff shipped into them once a week. There’s a pie shop there (A Slice Of Pie) that is perpeflicively awesome, though.

Entertainment: Ha! Rolla gets first-run movies long after everybody else is done with them, and I think there’s only one cinema left open. As has been noted, however, there are student organizations for various ethnicities, which seemed to be where most of the foreign national grad students seem to socialize.

St. Pats: Avoid it, particularly if he’s a non-drinker. Just trust me on this; any celebration which is culimated in people being thrown into a vat of fermented vomit is so far past wrong I don’t even want to know about it.

You don’t say what degree program/discipline he’s going into? Mechanical? Civil? ChemEng? PetEng? MatSci? Aerospace? EE? Nuc? Rolla is well-known for some and not so highly regarded for others. Has he looked at other options?

Stranger

Oh, and with regard to housing, avoid Investment Reality if you can; they have the highest rents and the worst service. (Unfortunatley, they also own a substantial amount of the available rental property in Rolla.)

Stranger

Tell him he must eat at Maid-Rite. Maid-Rite is where the gods go to lunch when they deign to take on human form and come down to mingle with us mere mortals. It’s on Kingshighway, off 63.

previews

Oh, yeah, and then go to Slice of Pie for dessert.

I lived in Rolla during my sophomore year in high school and I look back on it with great fondness. The kids were not cliqueish at all, like they were (and still are) in my hometown’s school. A lot of them had families that were connected with the college in some way, and I found most of them eager and open and willing to talk and get to know strangers. Hopefully it hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years or so.

There’s not much to do there for fun unless you’re the type who likes cruising the back roads telling ghost stories. We used to go to Spook Holler and scare the crap out of ourselves; those are some DEEP woods. We also used to drive out to Meramac Spring Park, in St. James, to fish, hike, goof off, etc. St. James also has a winery.

Aside from the boredom (and the multitude of speed traps lining highway 63 that one has to negotiate to get there) it’s a pretty nice place to live. I liked it a lot.

previews again

You know, I’ve still got my St. Pat’s sweatshirt from 1989 hanging in my closet! Towards the bottom of the design there’s a little picture of a sign that says, “Beware: Alice IS here!” I didn’t believe my friends when they tried to tell me what Alice was…

OK, done deal. Despite the fermented vomit, he is off to Rolla in time for his first Christmas. Ever.

Fulbright is a great program. A chance for him to meet Americans (other than me) and for Americans to meet him. With any luck, friendships will be made, and that will pay off for years to come.