Southeastern University (visited 2/5/16)
To imagine what this campus looks like, think Spanish moss (a la Savannah or Charleston) meets Southwest Architecture. The school is relatively new; although it was established in 1935 in Alabama, it relocated to its currently location in 1952 (accreditation was granted in the 80s). Buildings are new, remodeled, or well maintained so everything looks modern and attractive. Music gets piped around the main quad; when we were there, there were a lot of movie music being played. They were running a film fest, and one of the Pixar guys was on campus leading a seminar on storytelling.
This is a conservative Christian school, and students definitely live the mission. “I feel like the people here walk the walk. They want to be here,” said our tour guide. Applicants need to be highly invested in living their faith here. “It’s not someplace to come to explore if you believe; you come here because you DO believe and want to be surrounded by like-minded people and taught in a way that enforces that. All classes are taught from a Christian world-view, and that involves Creationism.” Another student on the panel said, “A lot of people think that god and science are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they don’t have to be.”
Applicants confirm their beliefs on the application. Although associated with Assembly of God (Pentecostal), they have students from a wide range of Christian faiths. An admissions rep said, “We do ask about faith on the application. We won’t reject someone outright if they check the No box, but we’ll have a conversation to see why they’re interested in this environment. We have a very small percentage of non-Christians who enroll.” Part of their application is a Christian Character Reference form from someone they’ve known for more than 6 moths.
A variety of chapel services are offered multiple times a week. “We know that people worship in different ways. Some are more quiet and reflective. Others are more boisterous.” Southeastern’s Core Values are Academic Excellence, Spiritual Formation, and Social Engagement. More than 50 student-led mission trips happen each year. When the tour guides talked about their trips, it seemed like a lot were conversion-based trips, but after talking more to students, it seems like many really are more help-based as well as having conversations and exchanges of information.
There’s no official dress code here. “Essentially, it’s based on modesty,” said the tour guide. “No cracks in the front or back!”
Southeastern’s enrollment has been growing steadily over the last several years to its current enrollment of 4,538 total students, 57% of whom are women and 36% are minority. Racial diversity was evident as we walked around campus; geographic diversity showed up in the license plates from all over the country. They currently have 74 international students; the highest number is from Brazil (5). However, there are no shuttles to and from the airport for kids who have to fly in. “A lot will take a SuperShuttle or get a friend to pick them up.” Freshmen can have cars on campus; parking is tough but a garage is in the works.
There’s space for1600 students to live on campus but they’re adding 450 new beds in the new LLC that’s currently going up and will be open for fall of 2016. The 1st floor will have food, the 2-3rd floors will be offices and classrooms, and dorm rooms will take up the 4-5th floors. There are no coed dorms, and this a dry campus. The myriad of social events has led to the reputation that this is “party school of Christian schools.” There’s plenty to do on campus. Sports are a big deal, both playing and watching. Football is now in its second year, and wrestling is new. When students want to get off campus, they can use town buses for free.
Overall, it seems like students like it here: “I was worried about whether I could have fun and be a Christian, too, but here you can.” Lakeland is a college town “but on a smaller scale than you might expect.” The beach, water parks, and Disney are all within an hour’s drive. Most students seemed happy, but while on the tour, three girls started saying, “Don’t do it! Don’t come!!” while shaking their heads vigorously behind the tour guide’s back. Another counselor and I went over to talk to them for a couple minutes and asked what they didn’t like about it. They said it wasn’t what it seemed and wasn’t worth the cost. However, when we entered the dorm, we talked to two students in the lounge. “On a 1-10 scale, it’s an 11! I love it here!”
Of the 50 majors, graphic design, poli sci, and nursing are the newest. The students we talked to said that their largest classes were 115, 40, and 50; the smallest were 4 and 8. All students must complete 18 credits in Religion, so all of them end up with a minor in Bible Studies. They also have to earn 30 Chapel Credits per semester. “It’s pretty easy to do, and people want to go anyway.” The FYE is tied into Chapel; these classes are single-gender. There’s also a student-led workshop team: it’s a selective group involving a lot of singing, and students have to audition; they put out a yearly CD.
In the lobby of the science building is a mastodon skeleton named “Suzy.” It was found in Florida and on loan to the university for 6 years.
This school is an amazing bargain at $31,000 per year. The average financial aid package is $18,000 with the top scholarships going up to $15,000. Honors students (the ones getting the most money) need a 3.6 to keep their merit aid. Scholarships are generally given based on the applications; they will superscore both the ACT and the SAT. They accept counselor and teacher recs but don’t require them.