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Barry University

Barry University (visited 2/6/16)

Barry walkwayI wasn’t unimpressed with Barry … but I wasn’t entirely impressed with it, either. The professors and administrators we met were great. The tour guides tried hard but weren’t as enthusiastic or as prepared to answer questions as I’d hope. The campus was nice with some buildings in better shape than others. There’s a lot of construction going on (although we never got a good answer about exactly what they were doing). In many ways, this is a typical, small liberal arts school, but does have a few things to help distinguish it: its diversity, some of the majors, and its extra support for students with learning differences or ADHD.

Barry statue 1Founded in 1940 as Florida’s first Catholic women’s college, it went coed in 1975. Its Core Commitments (Knowledge and Truth, an Inclusive Community, Social Justice, and Collaborative Service) remain the same today. This is still visibly a Catholic school with crucifixes in many of the rooms. The President, Sister Linda Bevilacqua (a Barry Alumna), is amazing; she’s vibrant and personable, and she clearly cares about her alma mater.

The racial diversity was noticeable as we walked around campus. Later, we learned that they are ranked among the nation’s 25 most ethnically diverse university by USNWR: the student population is almost ¼ each black, white, and Hispanic. The remaining quarter is split between Asian, international, and those who didn’t disclose. About 1/3 of the students come from outside Florida and almost 10% come from abroad. One of the most popular events on campus is the annual Festival of Nations in which students get to showcase food and cultural events.

Barry ex sci room

An Exercise Science lab

Academics are constantly growing and they offer some unusual majors. It’s classified as a Comprehensive Research 3 University.

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One of the academic buildings

Barry provides a great deal of Academic Support for students who need it. In addition to the ubiquitous tutoring and writing centers, they have a Center for Advanced Learning which provides students enrolled in the program 4 hours weekly of 1:1 tutoring (2 hours each in 2 subjects). There is an additional cost associated with this.

Barry chapel ext

The “mall” and chapel

Campus is easily walkable and is also entirely gated: gates get locked at midnight and students need IDs to get on “and visitors get all their information taken down. We want to know who’s here,” said the tour guide. The “mall” (a quad) has lots of events on it, but the tour guide had trouble naming more than Spring Fling (a typical spring weekend event) and saying that people use it to hang out and study. At one end is the chapel; mass is offered every day but is not required. Students have to take 2 religion and 2 philosophy classes to graduate; our tour guide took BioMedical Ethics as one of his requirements.

Barry seatingThere’s no residency requirement, and housing is not guaranteed: it’s first come, first served “but most people who want it, get it,” said the tour guide. About 1500 students live on campus, and they actually get a grant to stay (they lose that when they move off campus). They offer several LLCs including pre-nursing, honors, business, and STEM. The campus center is beautiful with lots of light and space, including a Commuter Lounge (which is relatively small given the number of commuters they have), Bucky’s Cove (campus pub; they do serve alcohol), and the fitness center is on the 2nd floor.

Barry pool

The campus pool

There’s a big athletic culture here. They have 12 DII Varsity teams (including men and women’s golf and women’s rowing which won the 2015 National Championship) and 348 Scholar All-Americans. As a side note, Shaquille O’Neill did his EdD here.

Admissions is rolling, and they don’t charge an application fee. International students need at least a 61 TOEFL score, a 500 CR SAT score, or attend an English-speaking high school. Merit aid is plentiful (even for international students with a 2.75 GPA). The Stamps Leadership Scholars Program is for students with a 3.5+ GPA, strong extra-curriculars, leadership potential, etc and requires an essay. Everything is covered (room, board, books, etc) plus a stipend for study-abroad. The Dominican Leadership scholarship goes up to $4,000 for those who are promising but maybe don’t quite meet the Stamps program. The Honors Program is open to students with a 1250 SAT or 28 ACT and 3.7 GPA. These students complete 21 credit hours in Honors and get an additional $5000 on top of other merit aid.

© 2016

University of Tampa

University of Tampa (visited 2/8/16)

Tampa sign

Tampa plaza

The view from a minaret of the hotel showing the Tampa skyline

This is more of an urban-feeling campus than I expected it to be. The iconic building is the hotel (complete with minarets) that the university bought in 1933 and which became the first university building; now it’s used for classrooms, offices, admissions, and more. The rest of campus is filled with modern, well-maintained, tall buildings and is incorporated into the city, but with enough green space to feel like a campus. It’s the only university in downtown Tampa and they capitalize on that. Students have easy access to a multitude of things and can walk to internships and jobs: students take advantage of the Florida aquarium, professional sports, art museum, police departments, and 2 of the top 25 newspapers in the country among other things.

 

 

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The hotel that became the original university building

Applications have doubled in the past 4 years; last year, they had almost 1700 students on the waitlist; about 7-10% of these come for the spring semester. This year, they brought in 1800 new freshmen with all states being represented: “We even had 5 kids from Idaho.” Although the gender balance is skewed slightly (about 45% male), generally this is an incredibly diverse student body with 17% of students coming from abroad (17-18% each from the Middle East and Asia, and 11% each from Europe and Central/South America).

Tampa porchThe average student travels 894 miles from home to attend UT. “The #1 reason students leave is homesickness,” said one of the reps. “We deal with this in open houses, info sessions, etc. UT students tend to be more independent. They’re metropolitan and cosmopolitan.”

Tampa dorms 3The First Year Experience, a 1-credit, full year class, has helped a great deal with retention; students are generally grouped by major. They’re starting a themed model this year, and will also to try to group international students together. The Honors Program offers special courses, and honors floor in the dorms, a research fellowship, an Oxford Semester, and more. Applicants are automatically considered for admission with a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT or 25 ACT.

UT is reasonably priced for a private school at $37,866 (2015-16 school year). “Usually this increases 2-2.5% increase a year,” said the rep. Only 8% of students do pay sticker-price.

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Some of the work spaces in the Entrepreneurship building

An amazing new Entrepreneurship building opened in the fall of 2015; it’s filled with meeting rooms, work stations, white boards, etc. all meant for creative thought and innovation. Their annual Pitch Contest is open to everyone regardless of major: last year it was won by an English major. We spoke to 2 students in the elevator and asked how they liked the school and program: “We give it a 10. We’re seniors and have an office on the top floor. They really support us here.” They’re doing some amazing entrepreneurial work already as undergraduates.

Tampa chapel

The non-denominational chapel

The most popular majors are Finance, Bio, and Marketing, but they offer an extensive range. “It’s easier to talk about what we don’t have!” said a rep; that includes engineering or architecture, but “We do science incredibly well here. I used to be at Illinois Tech and have toured a lot. No one holds anything over us,” said one professor. Some areas to brag about are:

 

  • Tampa athletic fields

    Athletic fields, the chapel, and an academic building

    Marine Science (students can specialize in Chemistry or Biology with this). The kid who fits here won’t fit at Eckerd and vice versa.

  • Nursing: they have an amazing pass rate: “I could have said that we had a 100% pass rate over the last 6 years, but 1 kid didn’t pass 4 years ago,” said a rep.
  • UT is the only College with their own booth at the Film Fest as part of the Film and Media Arts “The professor says that we blow Madison’s program away.”
  • They have their own bronze-casting facility.
  • Mathematical Programming.
  • Dance and Musical Theater. Disney recruits here a couple times a year.

The average class size is 21; only 44 classes have more than 40 students with the largest at 60 students. Our tour guides’ classes ranged from 6 (Evolution) and 16 (Honors Oral Communication) to 60 (Chemistry). One of them said that this dropped to 35 as time went on.

Just over half the students live on campus. There’s a 2-year residency requirement, and dorms are big and comfortable. Many juniors and seniors have traditionally moved off, but the school now has a 20-year contract with the Barrymore Hotel to house upperclassmen (this includes maid service!). Freshmen are not allowed to have cars unless they have a medical need for one.

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Greek Rocks

Almost half the students (about 40%) join one of the 22 Greek organizations. There are several rules surrounding rush (such as members can’t talk to recruits for the first week). Once they join, members have to maintain their GPA (tutoring is available) and attend study hours as well as complete a minimum amount of community service. “They’ll even monitor Facebook and instagram,” said one student.

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Some of the crew boats heading in after practice

“Greek life is active but it doesn’t drive the social scene on campus,” said a student. There are plenty of clubs and the usual school-sponsored activities (speakers, movies, etc). Their DII athletic teams participate in the Sunshine State Conference; they do have a DIII Ice Hockey team. They do have a varsity women’s crew and club level for both men and women as well as club equestrian, body building, flag football, and more. Participation in sports at some level is high, as is the fan base for the varsity sports.

© 2016

Lynn University

Lynn University (visited 2/6/16)

Lynn 1I had heard limited things about Lynn before visiting: the impression I had was that it served students with learning issues and students who maybe hadn’t quite come into their own academically yet. I was wrong.

Lynn is changing drastically, most obviously in that that enrollment has gone up 52% in the last few years, growing intentionally and strategically: “we’re growing but going to stay small.” Undergraduate population is about 2000; the most recent incoming class has about 700 students. Almost ¼ of the students are international, ranking them the 5th highest in the US for international enrollment.

Lynn hammockOne of the most remarkable things is Lynn’s partnership with Apple: all students get an iPad, acting as an iPad Pro trial market. Apple selected Lynn as a 2016 Distinguished School for Innovation, Leadership, and Education Excellence. A dean said, “They can say that about less than two handfuls of schools.” They are always looking for ways to improve the students’ educational experience; the tie with technology is a major way to do this. Faculty create their own textbooks which are then loaded onto the iPads. Students use iTunes U instead of Blackbaud. Because of these and other innovations, Lynn has been named in College (Un)Bound, among the 25 “Most Innovated Schools,” top 5 “Most International Schools,” and in the top 100 “Best Online Bachelor’s” among the best national universities by HS guidance counselors.

Lynn quadAnother difference at Lynn is that their math proficiency class is focused on life skills, not College Algebra or another of the traditional math classes. “We don’t have a single kid ever saying ‘When are we going to use this?’” They teach them things like how to balance a checking accounts, how to read a lease, how loans work (interest, how to apply, etc), how credit and credit cards and FICA scores work, etc. “It’s amazing what they don’t know …” said one of the professors.

Lynn patioLynn calls their Core Curriculum “Dialogues.” One of the students said, “They help prepare us for others classes, especially in terms of presentations.” A professor said,“There are certain things that students just need to be able to do in college. These can’t be optional.” For students who are struggling, Lynn employs 42 content-specialist tutors with at least a Masters.

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One of the Communications Studios

“Five adjectives to describe our school are agile, student-centric, forward-looking, dedicated, well-placed.” Students are remarkably well-prepared here and are given multiple opportunities to get real-life experience. The Counselor visit day was put together by a 2nd semester sophomore in the Event Management program (they also have Hospitality Management). He organized everything from the schedule to the food service. In the Aviation Management program, students go into airport management, etc. Students can earn certificates to be an Airline Transport Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Instrument Pilot Rating, Private Pilot, Certified Flight Instructor, Recurrent Flight Training, and Professional Commercial Pilot (all piloting lessons incur an extra charge and are done at the Boca airport). The Communications Department has new, state-of-the-art facilities providing a lot of practice for the students before they even start an internship.

Lynn labrynthLynn has a 3+3 articulation agreement with the St. Thomas University School of Law, as well as a general 3-year accelerated degree program called “3.0” which almost 1/3 of the student body is enrolled in (Education and Music majors can’t take advantage of this program). Students can take extra classes, including over the summer, all paid for by the colleges. Usually students will take 2 classes in J-term, not 1.

J-term classes got rave reviews. Students have to complete a class for the first 3 years; the last is optional. The first year has a community service focus; the 2nd year is a language and cultural focus; the 3rd deals with career paths. Classes during this term can be held on campus or in places like Las Vegas, the Dominican Republic, and even at the X Games.

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The Sanctuary sits on the far bank of the pond with a heron looking on

We asked the student panelists what their favorite classes were:

  • Aviation Class: “The professors are great!”
  • Personal Finance: “This class was heaven sent. It taught us real life stuff!”
  • Intro to Criminal Justice. “It was awesome! It was taught by an ex-lawyer from Los Angeles so we learned real-world stuff.”
  • Ethical Decision Making: “The professor was from Japan and so cool! We had great discussions.”
  • Media Literacy: “It’s really essential because we deal with it all the time now.”
Lynn dorm 2

One of the dorms

 

Currently there are not enough dorms to house all the students, so juniors and seniors basically have to move off campus. However, a new apartment-style dorm should be open shortly. The existing student center is “not very engaging. People don’t want to hang out there.” However, they just got the largest gift in university history to build a new student center and that will be up and running soon, as well. There will be a pub in the new student center, as well as more dining options. The main dining hall now keeps one station open all day. The sanctuary building is always available. Students come in to meditate, study, or do group memorials or meetings.

Lynn dorm

a dorm quad

Clubs and organizations give students experience with a variety of things in additional to building a robust on-campus social life. The Knights of the Round Table have live news broadcasts to get news out to campus. They have their own news app for phones edited by students. Greek life is only a tiny portion of the social scene here with 3 frats and 2 sororities; “not many kids are involved in this,” said our tour guide. Shuttles run to the beach, the mall, and stores. Parking can be a hassle, as can laundry. Soccer is a big deal; Barry is the big rival.

Founders Day is a big tradition. “It’s a food truck invasion, and the food is free! There’s a big carnival. It’s a lot of fun.” Another tradition is National Days when countries of all international students are represented in festivals, food, and even in a mini-World Cup.

© 2016

Millsaps College

MILLSAPS COLLEGE (visited 4/22/13)

Millsaps 1

A view of the wooded Millsaps campus

Millsaps is the most wooded campus I’ve ever seen. Lots of campuses have trees; Millsaps has TREES – to the extent that it’s hard to see the buildings sometimes! Seven gardens and several statues are scattered through campus. One statue is of Gandhi; students have a tradition to fist-bump him on the way to an exam if they want an A. One of the gardens has both the “M-Bench” (rumor says that if you kiss your girlfriend/boyfriend on the bench, you’ll get married) and Major Millsaps’ tomb (and yes, he’s really there. He and his wife didn’t have their own children, but wanted to be buried among the students who studied at the institution he helped to found). The campus is gorgeous and feels calm, even with students walking around.

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1 of the 7 gardens; this 1 has the M Bench and Major Millsaps’ tomb.

Campus is small, easy to get around, and safe. There are very few blue lights, but the tour guides don’t feel like that’s a problem. They can call 1234 from any phone on campus to get help if necessary, but they didn’t know anyone who had ever needed to call. The campus landmark is the Bell Tower; there’s no bell in it, but it is wired for sound. Someone once hacked in hip-hop music that played all over campus. The three-story “Academic Complex” is the only unattractive building on campus. Students can swipe into several buildings over the weekend to work there. Both tour guides like to study in the classrooms because of the whiteboard access. The Bowl is their main quad with a large student center on one side (which houses the Post Office, Career Center, the main dining hall, a grab-and-go food station, the nurse and more). The Seal is located in The Bowl. One of the tour guide’s favorite traditions happens on the last night of Orientation (night before classes start): “Reverse graduation” welcomes freshmen into the campus community. They walk the over the seal in the opposite direction that the seniors do on graduation and they get greeted by upperclassmen and faculty.

A view of a divided Freshman dorm room. Beds are on the far side of the closets.

A view of a divided Freshman dorm room. Beds are on the far side of the closets.

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One of the freshman dorms with the courtyard where students bbq.

The freshmen dorms leave a lot to be desired. All the freshmen live in these traditional cinderblock buildings. However, it’s not one of the things that the tour guides said they’d improve. “It was a bonding experience.” The nice thing about the dorm rooms was the divider in the room with the beds on one side and desks on the other which allows one roommate to sleep in relative privacy and darkness if the other one is still up working. Another nice thing is the Baco Courtyard outside the freshmen dorm with grills and other amenities. After freshmen year the students can move into suites.

Millsaps is a member of Colleges that Change Lives and it’s clear why. The admissions rep talked about “our scholars” not “our students.” This is the first college I’ve visited that requires all students to complete Senior Comps comprised of a paper and both a written and an oral exam. We asked the students what they thought about them; although they may not like them, they appreciate having to do them. One of the tour guides said that they’re actually a good way to pull together everything they’ve studied over the four years. Most people are really well prepared, and the students see them as a “unifier” or a “common enemy.”

Millsaps fountainMillsaps quad 5The admissions rep said that choosing a college is like a choosing life partner: you want to pick someone who will challenge you to be your best self but who is comfortable to be around. Millsaps works hard to be inclusive both through their mission and through their admissions process by selecting students they believe will live the mission. They’re intentional in making sure that all people on campus feel valued; one person described it as “a big hug of a school” and their welcoming attitude is seen even in the little details like adding visitor’s names to the reserved parking spots in front of the admissions office. This is one of the few colleges I’ve heard mention sexual orientation during their “diversity spiel.” One person told us that “A lot of the “–isms” are not a big deal here. People want to know: ‘Are you a smart person? Are you a good person? Are you going to help us to raise money for philanthropy?’” They’re clearly doing something right with an 80-83% Freshman-to-Sophomore retention rate over the past 10 years. Students who leave either are looking for a bigger experience (they don’t leave for a similar school) or because of family or academic reasons. Interestingly, males leave more often than females.

Millsaps quadImpressively, everyone who gets into Millsaps gets some sort of scholarship, most falling in the $10,000 to $18,000 range. The major scholarships usually go to students applying Early Action; students offered these usually score a 30 or better on the ACT (or an SAT equivalent) and a 3.9 GPA. They will super-score for both the SAT and the ACT; if a student retakes the test after the scholarship decision has been made, the student has to formally appeal for Millsaps to reconsider the scholarship amount. For admissions, students can apply Early Action or Regular Decision, with a rolling cycle after that if beds are available. They look to bring in about 230 incoming freshmen and another 40 transfers. International Students only have to take the TOEFL if the scores are borderline (under 21 ACT).

Millsaps acad bldg 1Campus activities are what you’d expect of a campus like this. Greek Life (6 frats and 4 sororities which have “sorority lodges”) is fairly popular and inclusive (many parties and activities like the Fashion Show are open to the community), but not mandatory to feel part of campus. Freshmen rush during the second week of classes after they’ve had a chance to settle in. Student Life Committees plan lots of typical types of events and will bring in big name speakers like Myrlie Evers. Students also take advantage of being in Jackson. The admissions staff took us to lunch at a trendy new tapas restaurant frequented by the students, and several students joined us so we had more time to get their perspectives on the school and town. They love First Thursday in the artsy rehabilitated center downtown. The reservoir about 20 minutes from campus is also popular to hang out, study, kayak, and more. A large percentage of students are active in the broader world, as well. There is a stopped clock tower on campus which the students have pledged not to restart it until the clean-up from Katrina is complete, but “more hurricanes keep hitting, so it’s going to take a while.” Lots of students go on alternative spring-break trips to help the rebuilding efforts.

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The Millsaps stadium

The Millsaps athletic teams (9 DIII teams each for men and women) play in “The Brain Bowl,” in which Rhodes, Birmingham Southern, Hendrix, Sewanee, Oglethorpe, Centre, and Barry also play. Their players are “Renaissance student athletes,” and 98% of them graduate in four years. They emphasize the experience of playing over winning. About 40% of each incoming class declares intention to play, and approximately 35% actually play when they get to campus. The students say that fans rally around the football stadium. There’s a plaza with a fountain just outside the stadium which attracts people before games and hosts lots of events (activity fairs and the like).

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The Business building which houses one of the full fully accredited programs at at undergraduate liberal arts schools.

Although there’s no consortium in which students can take classes at nearby colleges (except for ROTC students who do their work at Jackson State), students can enroll in Dual Degree programs such as the 3-2 (BS) in Engineering and Applied Science with Auburn, Columbia, or Vanderbilt; a 4-2 (BS/MS) with Columbia; a 2-2 (BSN) or a 3-2 (BS/BSN) with the University of Mississippi; or a 4-2 (BS/MSN) with Vanderbilt. There is also an Honors College. Students get invited after sophomore year and complete a three-semester program in which they develop an honors thesis proposal in addition to comps and participate in a symposium at the end. About a dozen students participated this year. Finally, they also offer a Ford Fellowship in which invited students can develop a syllabus and co-teach a class.

(c) 2013

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