PACE UNIVERSITY – Westchester (visited 7/26/13)
Pace is unusual in that it has two distinct campuses but is considered one university. The 8000 undergraduates are accepted as Pace students and can move back and forth between the campuses at will; approximately 3000 live at the Westchester campus and 5000 in NYC. Students really get the “best of both worlds: a suburban campus with all the benefits of the city.” The Pleasantville campus sits on about 200 acres (of which about 40% is used) with a supplemental campus in Briarcliff (2.7 miles away) which has five dorms, a dining hall, and the practice fields for their DII teams. The benefit of living on the Briarcliff campus is that “it’s like going home after I’m done for the day,” said one of the tour guides. However, plans are in the works to sell the Briarcliff campus and combine campuses. Shuttles run frequently between the Westchester campuses and to the MetroNorth station. The last shuttle stops at 12:30 but there’s an agreement with a local cab company that allows kids to get taxi rides for free between the Westchester campuses after that. Parking on the two Westchester campuses is easy and free, but the shuttles are so good that cars aren’t necessary. However, more students tend to bring cars as they start to get internships. Shuttles also run to the downtown NYC campus (but not as frequently) which is located in the Financial District near City Hall and around the corner from South Street Seaport. This campus is home to Inside the Actor’s Studio; Pace students can watch the taping for free. The NYC campus does not have any sports facilities so athletes usually study in Pleasantville during their sport season. (FYI, the Giants used to practice in the Westchester campus). The theater arts people gravitate to NYC; hands-on arts kids usually stay in Pleasantville.
Although Pleasantville is a small town, there is quite a bit to do. The tour guides all rattled off a list of things like to do and places they like to eat. On campus, they have a lot traditions and activities that they look forward to every year like Relay for life, Greek Week, 50 Days & 50 Nights, Midnight Breakfast, and Unity and Justice Week. They provide discounted tickets like $15 tickets to Yankees games or Broadway shows. The school is about 15% Greek, but not to the exclusion of other things: “They’ll talk to us normal people.” The Student Center has posters advertising all sorts of activities, and I can’t imagine that students could be bored at Pace.
Pace’s tagline is “Work Toward Greatness;” they provide a Liberal Arts foundation (everyone completes a Liberal Arts core from the Arts and Sciences school) alongside stellar professional skills, earning them a place as “One of the top 20 Colleges that will make you rich” on Forbes’ list. USN&WR has also listed them as #1 in NY and in the Top 10 in the nation for internships. Pace has links with 500 companies, and students can begin internships in sophomore year. Many students will do part-time internships (like 1 day a week) as they take classes. Pace wants students to create a tangible resume and make contacts. Paid internships average about $15 an hour; alternatively, they can get credit for it.
Many students get hands-on experiences in their majors even before internships: Education majors (who all study at the Pleasantville campus) start teaching in their sophomore year. The students use an avatar program called “TeachMe” developed and operated by people at the University of Florida; students link into a cyber-classroom and teach “students” who are controlled by people at UF. As students get better, the “students’” behavior often gets worse, so they get experience dealing with issues in classroom ranging from cell phones ringing to kids falling asleep to students mouthing-off. The Nursing program (also only at Pleasantville) is direct-entry, and clinicals start sophomore year for them, as well. They work in state-of-the-art Sim-labs on campus before rotating through clinicals in all areas. Pace boasts a 98% pass rates on Certification exams including a 90% NCLEX-RN pass rate for first time test takers in 2011. Sciences in general are strong; they have a new $8 million science building with renovated labs. The Environmental Studies Center is centrally located on campus; this used to be the equestrian center (which no longer exists). Now there is a solar-paneled house being used as a classroom, barns with animals like chincillas, prairie dogs, chickens, an owl, and more. There are gardens and other areas for experiential education. The Fine Arts building is in a beautiful stone building near this area; they’ll eventually move this to make room for the new Environmental Center.
In the school of Computer Science and info Systems, they’ve recently developed a Cyber-security major and offer Cyber Security Scholarships. Their Business school is accredited as both business and accounting schools (which is rare), and they offer a 5 year BA/MBA program. Pace actually was founded in 1906 as an accounting school, so their program is strong and well-established. Students can take advantage of their 3-3 program with the law school: they take the LSATs in Junior year and start the law degree as a senior, completing it in the standard 3 years.
Advisors will make the first semester schedule for incoming freshmen, but students can talk it through with them if they want to change something. After that, students schedule their own courses. All freshmen take a University 101 class (students are grouped usually by majors) that has a common theme for the year (this year it was Justice). Classes are supposedly capped at 25, but they won’t leave people out of a class if they need it. One of the tour guide’s biggest class was 33 (their smallest classes were 5 (math) and 10 (marketing)). Some nursing classes are combined for presentations.
The admissions process is holistic and straight-forward. They try to make it as easy as possible for students to apply (and they even have a tutorial online to help families fill out the FAFSA). 4 or 5 on AP will usually transfer in. Students can get invited into the Honors College based on their SAT scores (minimum of 550 in Critical Reading and Math) and a 3.5 GPA. These students get $15,000 a year and an iPad; they need to maintain a 3.3 to stay in the program.
Pace guarantees housing for all 4 years on both campuses, usually in double rooms. Freshmen can state which campus they want to live on, but don’t really get to pick which dorm. The dorms we saw in Pleasantville were pretty typical dorms – cinderblock structures with long halls, but without the claustrophobic feeling of some halls that I’ve seen. The lounges were functional but ordinary; there were lots of couches, a 6-person table, and a large flat-screen tv. Housing selection is based on a point system which takes GPA and extra-curriculars into account. The Townhouses (which we didn’t see) have a full kitchen and living room on the first floor, then 2 double rooms on each of the second and third floors.