campus encounters

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Search Results for: “florida international university

Florida International University

Florida International University (visited 1/24/13)

As luck would have it, I sat next to a recent FIU graduate on the plane to Miami. She did her master’s work there, and while her experience was clearly different from undergrads, she shared insight and knowledge about FIU. She raved about her experiences, the campus, and the school. She was also a Miami native and knew a lot about FIU and the University of Miami and talked a bit about real and perceived differences.

The FIU admissions counselor literally went out of her way to help me. I had emailed her in advance asking if I could join the afternoon tour and info session; I told her I had planned on hopping on a bus to get to campus and asked for directions from the bus stop to the admissions office. She told me not to worry about the bus; she would pick me up on her way back to campus after a high school visit. She also took me back at the end of the day. I found that this friendliness was not uncommon; people seemed more than willing to help others. I walked away with a real sense of community – something I don’t often get when visiting such large schools.

FIU is a large public university. It opened in 1972 and has grown to 34,000 undergrads, but it feels smaller because of the high commuter population. Approximately 6,000 students live on campus, giving this the feel of a medium-sized university but with the myriad of opportunities of any other large state school I’ve seen. True to its name, there’s an extensive international population; Trinidad, the Bahamas, and China are the most-represented countries, and India is quickly catching up. Additionally, the cultural diversity of Miami is also well represented on campus. (As a side note, the TOEFL exam is not required for students who graduate from a US high school and who have been here for at least 2 years).

All dorms are apartment or suite style – none have communal bathrooms (another surprise at such a large school, but indicative of the lower residential rate). Suites have 3 or 4 single bedrooms with some sort of common space and a bathroom, often with at least 1 sink outside the bathroom. The upperclassmen suites tend to have a kitchen in the common area; freshmen dorms usually don’t. Each dorm has a mail room, a staffed front desk, and laundry facilities. New dorms are being built for upperclassmen which will increase the number of students living on campus. About 15% of the students are involved in Greek Life. Freshmen can rush; sororities rush in fall and frats rush every semester. There are only two frat houses on campus; they’re large, beautiful buildings near the entrance to campus that house 30-40 students each.

Scholarships range from 50% tuition to full rides (including R&B and fees) for National Merit Finalists. The percentage of tuition applies to either in- or out-of-state tuition, whichever the student would be paying. Scholarships are awarded at the time of acceptance with few exceptions. They super-score both the SAT and the ACT. If grades go up during senior year and the most recent GPA would help move them up for a higher award, they can submit updated grades for reconsideration. There is also an Honors program that students are invited to when they apply; students admitted to this program usually have a 4.0 GPA and 2000 SAT (or equivalent ACT).

The Biscayne Bay campus houses the Marine Science, Journalism, and Hospitality majors. Although these majors don’t seem to go together, they’re placed there because of availability of resources: the marine science obviously has the bay; the journalism is placed there because it’s closer to many of the major networks and newspapers, so students have easy access to internships and hands-on experiences. There’s also a separate Engineering campus. Shuttles run back and forth all day to all campuses until 11pm.

The main campus is beautiful, well-laid out, and easy to get around; the tour guide lived on campus her first year and said that it took “7 minutes at a normal pace” to get from her dorm to her furthest class. There is far more grass than I expected of such a large university; sculptures are everywhere. Visual and performing arts are active, and one part of campus has an “Avenue of the Arts” with the Fine Arts building on one side and the Music School at the end. The tour guide said that that the arts programs could use more money, despite all the theater productions and the multiple Art Expos each year showcasing student’s work. A farmer’s market is held on campus every Wednesday, and group yoga and tai-chi classes are often held around the fountain. The Architecture, Business, and Law schools are all centrally located among the other buildings. The law school has two working courtrooms which are used for actual trials as well as for teaching. The largest auditorium on campus holds 280 students. The tour guide’s smallest class had 18 students; the largest was 280. When students register for classes, they can actually see how big the enrollment is in that class. The entire campus is wi-fi accessible, and printing (5 cents per page) is available in all the buildings and can be accessed by swiping ID cards.

The library tower is the tallest building on campus and serves as a good reference point for finding your way around. The first two floors are “loud floors” with study rooms, group spaces, and lots of centralized seating. The rest of the floors are quiet. Under the library is a breeze-way with a mini-mart on one side – this is very popular for students wanting a study break. Clubs and organizations often set up tables for information or fund-raisers. One club was having a bake sale when we went by.

There are no obvious blue security lights around campus; the tour guide said these were mostly around the outskirts of campus and in buildings. There are two police stations on campus and 36 officers stationed solely on campus. Even though this is a city campus, she said that she has always felt safe on campus. Parking isn’t really an issue. People can get parking spots – but there is a “parking convenience problem.”

The tour guide is a big fan of the food, especially being able to get breakfast all day at the dining halls. She still buys into a partial meal plan even though she lives off campus. Students living on-campus must have a meal plan; those living off-campus can choose. The VIP5 allows students to get meals Monday – Friday, and includes $300 in Panther Bucks for use at satellite food outlets. The VIP7 meal plan is all week and includes $100 in Panther Bucks. On-campus locations that take Panther Bucks include Chili’s, a sushi place, Dunkin Donuts, Einstein Bros, Subway, Burger King, a Middle Eastern restaurant, Starbucks, mini-marts, and more. Many of these are located in the University Center food-court; it feels like a mall food court with lots of seating and even a fishtank. We walked through in mid-afternoon and it was being well-utilized. Clearly it’s a comfortable, central hang-out.

(c) 2013

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University (visited 2/21-23/2018)

NSU fountain 3This feels like a massive school even though they only have 4800 undergraduates, primarily because of the immense graduate population (17,000 nationwide including online). This creates a nice balance for undergrads who want a larger-feel school without being lost in the shuffle or sit in larger lecture halls. The undergrad division started in the 1980s (shifting from graduate-only): their freshman class increased to 994 in 2017 with plans to be at 1500 by 2020!

NSU stu cntr 1

The interior of the student center

NSU has good ethnic, geographic (50% from outside of Florida), and religious diversity but it is still heavily female (about 2/3). “It’s a great community. There’s a great deal of respect, even for people who hold different views,” said a rep. One student on the panel said, “It’s a respectful campus in how we respond to each other. There are people from both sides of the political spectrum.” They’ve been seeing more political involvement recently, “maybe because of what’s going on in the country.”

NSU 3They’re located in a quiet suburban community near Fort Lauderdale and Miami with a range of things to do. The university runs shuttles downtown, to the airport at breaks, and even to the Miami Dolphins stadium (15 minutes away) where they can attend home games for FREE which more than makes up for no football team on campus!

NSU HS Pavilion

The Health Pavilion building

Because of their extensive medical graduate programs, NSU offers Dual Admissions: if admitted and eligible, students have a reserved spot in one of 30+ professional Masters or Doctoral programs. They can only apply to 1 program: “the idea is that they know what they want to do.” It is NOT binding; they can relinquish their spot if they change their minds. Students can also apply to the Farquhar Honors College: The 400ish students in the program get plenty of mentoring, priority registration, and access to research opportunities.

NSU chem lab 1

A Chemistry lab

The flagship academic program at NSU Experiential Education and Learning (see the ExEL YouTube video here). “Experiential education is nothing new; we’re just embedding it. ‘I reflect and I learn’ is what sets us apart. We want to ask them the right questions at the beginning of their education, let them understand what they’re learning and what it’ll look like at and after graduation.”

  • Students complete 6 units including FYS and Senior Capstone. The other 4 can be study abroad, internships, designated experiential courses, faculty-mentored research, community engagement, etc.
  • NSU oceanography 2

    Part of their Oceanography Center on a separate campus about 20 minutes from the main campus

    They start career development early through coaching, internships, job search action planning, and over 1000 internship placements a year. They’re increasing visibility of social sciences/humanities research.

  • They created a Success Team. All schools provide academic advisors; what’s unique are the certified Career Advisors, “Advisors on steroids,” who plan out a 4-year journey based on the student’s needs. The 2 advisors meet every couple weeks to talk about the 250-student cohort assigned to them.
  • Students work with the professional schools: Health Advocacy Law cases, create lip gloss at the pharmacy school, dissect pig feet at the Health Sciences, examine teeth at dental school.
NSU HS dentistry

One of the dental labs

Beyond that, there are multiple Razor’s Edge (Premier) Programs, the umbrella “organization” allowing students to earn a specialized 16-credit minor; most are open to students from any major. These require a supplemental application and interview. Students can apply to two programs but can only participate in one (they’re all 4-year residential programs) but can combine the program with Honors and/or Dual Admissions.

  • Leadership and Civil Engagement: They look for people who’ve had leadership positions, who’ve led or started an organization. Students complete 7 leadership credits and 9 more across the curriculum as well as a “legacy” project for the benefit of the community.
  • Shark Teach (Teacher Leadership): participants have had experience in tutoring, camp counseling, teaching in Sunday School, etc. and demonstrate a passion for helping students. Educationally-focused community service in expected.
  • Shark Cage: Students do sales pitches, growing in length as time goes on. A group is traveling to Cuba to see how they do it there with heavy government restrictions and almost no money.
  • Fischer Academy: 3+1 Masters in Education, guaranteeing an education job in select Florida counties. There is some flexibility including hybrid online components and modules in a learning center. Students get a free international travel component in the 2nd year and a paid internship as a tutor or SI leader.
  • Global Program (Global Engagement): students do local, state, national, and international projects (usually in that order).
  • Shark Talent (Arts Leadership): They learn how to be arts administrators and promote events, create marketing plans and materials.
NSU Business

The new Business building

I asked the student panelists what their favorite classes have been and why:

  • Sport Supplements for Athletes: “It’s only 7 students taught by the university researcher for the year. I got a certificate and letters behind my name.”
  • Genetics: “It’s pretty cool; I use my own DNA and figure out where I’m from.”
  • Courts and Corrections: “the prof required us to go to federal criminal court. Even though I was in NY, I could do the class and it was really personalized.”
  • Spanish for Business/Health/Legal professions: “They taught a lot of specific stuff, and I had professors from different countries so it was more like a cultural environment.”
  • Microbiology: “We took skin samples and we’re growing our own bacteria. That came from me!”

NSU hammocks 1Just over 1/3 of the incoming class majors in STEM fields, but Business (with 6 specialties to choose from including Sport and Recreation Management) and Arts &Sciences (especially Criminal Justice) have strong showings. Their strong graduate health sciences programs in health sciences leads to strong undergrad programs including:

  • Public Health (the first undergrad program in the College of Osteopathic Medicine) which looks at health from the community level: health of people and communities; track disease outbreaks; disaster emergency management. Students gain expertise in global health, social and behavioral health sciences, epidemiology, environmental and occupational health, and healthcare. The degree allows for flexibility to enter the work force or can segue into Masters programs or dental or med school. They offer the 1st 7-year (3+4) public health/Med degree dual admission in the nation.
  • Speech-language Pathology: they start clinical experiences in the first year for some programs, often in the on-campus speech clinic.
  • Medical Sonography, Cardiovascular Sonography, Respiratory Therapy, and Exercise and Sport Science are also of note.
NSU dorms 2

Some of the dorms.

Dorms are spacious and have private bathrooms! Students are allowed to move off campus; the housing office will help students find apartments, many of which are right off campus. There is Greek Life which is fairly popular (but “smaller than at some other places”) and no Greek Housing. This is the first university (especially of this size) that does not have an actual dining hall! Students said that this is something they want fixed. There are food courts; in 2018-19, they’re going to try a hybrid for dinners/weekends where they’ll swipe for a buffet. Students would also like to see money spent on dorms and to buy out houses on SE side of campus.

International Students are considered for all scholarships and programs. They do NOT need test scores for admissions if they have been in the US from 10th-12th grade but must send in scores for scholarship consideration OR if they spent all 4 years in the US.

© 2018

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (visited 11/7/15 and 5/25/16)

~CMU signCMU has a wonderful reputation for Computer Science and other STEM fields … but did you know that they also are highly ranked for Dance? It’s also 1 of 2 schools in the country to offer a degree in Bagpipe Performance. They take their Scottish heritage very seriously here! The official color is plaid, but “that’s hard to accessorize” so people wear maroon, gray, and white. The official mascot is a tartan, but unofficially, it’s the Scottie dog.

~CMU quad students

Students on the quad

In many ways, this is a nicer campus than the University of Pittsburgh in terms of it being an actual campus (rather than Pitt’s more urban feel). There is lots of activity on the campus between classes, and students tend to be a bit on the quirky side. When walking around on our own, we talked to a few students, two of whom were Computer Science majors, one from Seattle and one from Florida. “It’s the #1 program in the country,” said one when we asked why she chose Carnegie Mellon. Neither had much to say about the university itself which in some ways is telling.

~CMU walkway

The CS buildings with the raised walkway.

Students here are smart and motivated. Many of the kids here sailed through high school. They don’t know what it’s like to spend 4 or 5 hours a night doing work. “I’m stunned by the volume of people using the tutorial services and study sessions. Almost all the freshmen classes have them, and beyond that, any class that historically has been a sticking point will have them.” About 2/3 of classes have fewer than 20 students. The only class not taught by a full professor is English 101; these sections are led by PhD candidates in order to keep them small.

About 40% of students have a minor and 10% double major. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is the most diverse and most flexible with 60 options for majors. Students can wait until the end of sophomore year to declare their major. Science and Engineering students don’t declare until end of the first year.

CMU dramaGenerally, double majoring in any BFA (drama, music, art) area will be difficult because of the number of credits in the arts required for the degree. The drama department actively discourages double majoring because they really want the students to focus on their major. Music, however, seems to be more accommodating. However, the BXA Intercollege Degree Program does allow students to combine a BFA and others. Students sacrifice a bit of depth in the original field, and participating in this program requires students to make connections and intersections between the 2 chosen fields. This program really is for those who want to investigate how the 2 inform each other. For example, students have combined Psych and Music or Chem and Ceramics. The students must be admitted to both the academic and the fine arts departments.

~CMU outdoor classroom

CMU’s outdoor classroom

Another notable interdisciplinary program is IDeAte (Integrative Design, Arts & Technology Network). The coursework students complete is equivalent to a minor in areas like Educational Technology, Game Design, Intelligent Environments, and Sound Media Design. They put together an interdisciplinary team and then apply creativity and teamwork to technology.

Many of CMU’s programs tend towards the interdisciplinary, even if they aren’t specifically stated as such. For example, their Business programs are more quantitative than most. “Quantitative analysis is our wheel house. What does the data tell us to do?” Students earn a Bachelor of Science so “it’s hard core.” Because of this focus, “I took math classes alongside engineers,” said one of the students. They’re learning from each other rather than students in different majors being separated out.

~CMU quad 1However, when students apply, they get accepted by a college, not just to the university. Students can transfer between schools as long as there is space and they qualify, but it’s more difficult into the more competitive schools. Econ, CS, and Engineering tend to over-enroll. For example, they got 7000 apps for 350 spots in CS.

The BArch program also requires that students demonstrate that they really want to be there. The application ask a lot of questions to get at whether students have a realistic view of what the profession is really like. “Architects look like science students – lots of math and science, but with an artistic portfolio.” The program is 5 years (required for the credential) with an additional 2-year apprenticeship before taking the exam. CMU highly recommends completing a pre-college architecture program.

~CMU acad bldg 4If CMU can’t admit a student to their first choice major, what’s listed as the second choice can determine admission. “There are some combos we know are historically going to mean that students will be unhappy. We look for genuine interest in the 2nd choice and evidence that they really will be happy in that major,” said the Dean of Admission.

According to the Dean, Cornell is their big competitor (“They do what we do but on a grander scale”), but they also compete with MIT for straight STEM programs, followed by Princeton, RPI, and Penn. Surprisingly, the top feeder state is CA (with 2 times as many Californians as any other state), followed by NY, PA, and NJ.

~CMU athleticsEarly Decision accounts for 20-25% of incoming classes. Demonstrated interest can factor into regular decisions, but it plays much more of a roll in the waitlist process. They only pulled 12 kids off waitlist this year, but they do all financial aid packages in March so even waitlisted students know what they’re going to get. This is the first year they’ve met full financial need. “We like to make a solid commitment, but right now it has to be year-to-year. It’s been challenging.” There is no financial assistance for international students, but there may soon be merit awards for them.

~CMU food truckThere’s a wide variety of housing options included themed living, single-gender (both male and female), and gender-inclusive housing. There is no centralized dining hall. Instead, venders come in. “It keeps people from going to the same place over and over and getting bored.”

© 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.

 

 

Tampa hotel 4

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.

Tampa entrepreneurship 1

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.

Tampa greek rocks

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.

Tampa crew 2

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

Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College (visited 2/5/16)

FSC waterski ramp 2

Ski jump for the waterskiing team

Want to join a varsity waterskiing team?

Maybe you’d like to major in Citrus?

Are you a Frank Lloyd Wright fan?

Would you like a work-study job walking Riley the Therapy Dog?

Then check out Florida Southern!

FSC dining hall

Students studying in the dining hall

FSC takes a well-balanced, holistic approach to education. The college President said, “Students have to actively engage in the learning process and apply what they’ve learned. If you’re looking for an anonymous experience, go to UF. If you want to be involved with professors and see how learning is applied in a real-world way, this experience becomes transformative.”

FSC arch and towerFlorida Southern has 3 distinctive guarantees:

  • Graduation in 4 years. Students must follow certain straight-forward guidelines; if they do so and still can’t graduate on time, FSU will help cover the cost of the remaining time.
  • Internships: Everyone is guaranteed an internship in their field of study if they want it, although these are not required. However, real-world readiness is stressed here and the National Society of Experiential Education Ranked FSC #1 in engaged learning. Almost all students (98%) do internships, practicum, field work, research, or study abroad.
  • Study abroad. Many students do traditional study abroad, but FSC offers Junior Journey at no or reduced cost to all students. They’re eligible after completing 4 semesters of study. They can apply this to a longer study abroad experience if they want.

FSC bikesStudents have fun here, but academics are important: “I’m surprised how much more academically focused I am,” said one of the students we spoke to. The most popular majors are accounting, business, broadcast and print/online journalism, economics and finance, education (offered in multiple areas), marine biology, music, nursing, and psychology.

FSC PAC

Performing Arts Center

 

For students interested in fine and performing arts, this is a great place. Interested students must audition (remote auditions are available). They just added a new Dance Performance and Choreography major. Their thriving music program includes music education, performance, management, and musical theater. Theater students can major in performance, theater arts, and technical theater/design. Fine arts students have options of graphic design, studio art, art education, and art history. There’s a large art gallery on campus used extensively by students. There are 30+ performance and gallery shows every year, including a full opera accompanied by the orchestra.

FSC business atrium

The lobby of the new Business building

The new Business building opened in August 2015, and in the fall semester of 2015, students had the option of majoring in Political Economy which is only offered at a few universities in the nation.

FSC citrus trees

Some of the citrus trees that Citrus majors help manage.

Biology, Marine biology, and Biotechnology are all strong. Lakeland and the university are within an hour’s drive of both coasts, and there are 29 lakes nearby. FSC students often work with other students from schools like USF and UCF. Dr. Langford, a biology professor, spoke to us. His “how to” for getting students involved in research is: “Recruit students sophomore year, give them original projects, train them, get out of the way, and brag about their results!” Students have access to a ton of topics either self-developed or with professors: they’re actively working on shark ecology, antibiotic discovery, genetics and evolution, paleobotany, wetland ecology, marine microbiology, herpetology, parasitology, and invertebrate phylogenetics among other things, and they present regularly at regional, national, and international meetings and have publications in peer reviewed in scientific journals.

FSC dorm 1

One of the dorms

There’s a strong sense of campus pride and inclusivity here. With 11 dorms, 3 apartment complexes (with a 4th on the way), and Greek housing (about 1/3 of students rush, but not all live in housing), this is a highly residential campus; first-year students are required to be on campus unless living with parents (94% are on campus). Dorm rooms are big and many have water views. Greek rush happens during the 3rd week in the fall. Students can join both a social and a professional Greek organization.

FSC has 19 varsity DII sports, and they’ve won 28 National Championships. There are 25 intramural options including Inner Tube Water Polo, Rock Paper Scissors, and Kayak Racing.

FSC bikesStudents can walk to downtown Lakeland in about 15 minutes (“or about 3 minutes on a bike”). Students like the town: “It’s little and cute and there’s plenty to do,” including First Fridays, coffee shops, a great farmer’s market, and a flea market. If they get tired of Lakeland, beaches and Orlando are both an hour away. This is the oldest private school in Florida, founded in 1885, and is the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.

FSC FLW chapel

The Chapel

Students perform 32,000 hours of community service a year. Although the university is affiliated with the United Methodist church, there are no religious requirements; those who are interested can help run chapel services.

The college is responsive to students and what they need and want: for example, they kept the library open later when students asked for it. They’ve changed up the food options; there are now more food trucks on campus. They have offered more vegan and other options, as well.

FSC fountain and tower

The fountain where WaterDome Splash occurs

Some of the students’ favorite classes are:

  • Philosophy: “The professor is Lebanese and has a different perspective on a lot of things; he took it to a whole new level.” Bikes apparently are useful but not used so much.
  • Marketing Principles: “The professor is really straight-forward; we do cool projects!”
  • Speech class: The professor is passionate.”
  • Intro to Microbio Research: “We do concrete projects. The professor is interesting and has expanded the content past the textbook.”

Things that they’d like to change are:

  • More centralized parking: “All students can bring a car but parking can be a struggle. It’s there but can take awhile.”
  • “Sometimes school spirit for athletics gets forgotten. It’s very academic here. People would rather go to the library than to a game.
  • “I’d change the accounting program.”

Traditions students particularly like are:

  • WaterDome Splash: going into the fountain is forbidden except for seniors at graduation who are allowed in.
  • Blast Off: on the day before classes, clubs in the gym host a club fair.
  • Pizza with the President: “She’s super involved; she even got kicked out of a basketball game because she was yelling so much!”
  • Winter Wonderland: “they bring in snow to the green”
  • One student said, “It’s not a traditions, but I’m going to miss my professors when I leave.”

Admissions is rolling between September 1 and March 1 with an ED deadline of 12/1. They admit approximately 45% of total applicants; admitted students average a 3.6 GPA, 26 ACT, 1134 SAT. They will superscore both tests.

© 2016

Stetson University

Stetson University (visited 2/10/16)

Stetson 3D equipment

3D printing equipment in the library

This is the first university I’ve visited that has power tools, sewing machines, soldering irons, 3D printers, and more in the library for students to access. They have a whole innovation lab in the library at the students’ disposal.

Stetson printed objects

Students’ printed objects

I enjoyed Stetson and can see why students are drawn to it. People are friendly, the campus is attractive, and its ranked Top 5 Universities in the South by USNWR. It’s a small school with a big school feel. Even the town of DeLand (just north of Orlando) was named in the “Top 3 Best Main Streets in America” by Parade Magazine (www.destinationdeland.com).

Stetson dorm lounge

A dorm lounge

Stetson is growing, currently with just over 3,000 undergrads. About 40% of students come from outside Florida, including 185 students from 55 countries. They make it easy to get to and from campus with airport shuttles. They’ve added dorms to keep up with the demand: there’s a 3-year residency requirement, but most seniors stay on campus with 86% of students on campus. Almost 1/3 of students go Greek; housing is available but limited.

Stetson library

The library

This is an animal-friendly campus; we saw several dogs around campus, and a student had a dog with her in the library as she was studying. There is a friendly, family feeling here. Students talked about lots of traditions such as the candle ceremony at the beginning of the year where freshmen carry a candle through the original gates.

Stetson organ

The organ in the music school

All students need to accumulate 24 cultural credits to graduate. These can include anything from watching a debate and discussing it, attending any of events at the music school, or going to a lecture by a visiting academic. “It’s easy to do. Most people go to these things anyway, and most of my friends are done with their 24 events well before the end of sophomore year.” This is a highly engaged campus in many ways including with high voter turnout. The political divide is almost equal: 32% democratic, 28% republican, 18% independent. Whatever political side you lean towards, it’s ok here.

Stetson bikes

Bikes are a favorite way to get around campus

There are 18 DI teams (as a side note: Stetson alumni won the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards in the same year). Football is in its 4th year. They have a Mad Hatters section for students at games which is often full (yes – they’re the Hatters … it is Stetson University, after all!)

They’ve hired several new faculty members to keep up with the increasing academic opportunities, and classes are kept small. Our tour guide’s smallest class had 6; her largest was 33 (Intro to Bio). On the student panel, we asked what their favorite classes were and why:

  • Pirates: “Pirates are just cool!”
  • Poverty and Micro-credit: “it was a service-learning class; we worked in a prison helping with entrepreneurship.”
  • Predictive Analytics: “We did real-life stuff like working with an airline.”
  • Calculus 3: “The professor combined computer programs and the process and theories behind it. It was hard but learned a lot.”
  • Spanish: “The professor offered us accelerated learning when he saw that a few of us were ready to move ahead more quickly.”

Stetson 7They have 3 undergraduate schools as well as a law school (Florida’s first):

  • The School of Business Admin is accredited in both business and in accounting.
  • Arts and Sciences: They have many traditional offerings plus:
  • Stetson quadTheir School of Music is impressive.
    • They take 80 students per year and graduate 55-60. Many change majors but stay at the university. They’re encouraged to dabble early if they’re interested because it’s so heavily proscribed – it’s easier to move out than in.
    • Everyone majoring or minoring need to audition and must be admitted to both the university and the music department. Because it’s a school of music and not a conservatory, they can be accepted at several levels (for a minor but not a major, etc). They can also audition for entry during their freshman year.
    • About half of the students go into music education; they’re in very high demand. 50% graduate in performance or composition.
    • There’s no marching band (no football team!) but the students can get experience working with a local high school that has a 400-member marching band.

Many students Study Abroad, and those who do a language immersion can complete a minor in 1 semester or a major in 2.

Stetson bell towerStudents in the Honors Program can design their own majors by combining any passion and interest; their degree is whatever they label it as. One student combined Art, Art History, and Chemistry to make an Art Restoration major. Students live in honors housing, receive a $2000 stipend for travel or research, and are exempt from many of the gen ed requirements. Students admitted to the honors program average 31.5 ACT or 1410 SAT. They like a 30 ACT and at least a 600 on each of the SAT sections.

The Bonner Program brings in 18 students each year as a cohort; this is reserved for people with a true passion for community service and engagement. The application deadline is Feb 25 with the finalists invited to campus later in the spring.

Stetson cafeAll students complete a research project. Their major will determine the type of research they do, but there’s always an oral presentation component. A Senior Research class gives them some time and structure to do this as needed, but there are multiple opportunities outside the class to do the research.

Admissions is test-optional. If students choose to submit their scores, Stetson will superscore the SAT but not the ACT. They will recalculate GPA (.5 to Honors, 1 point to AP and IB). Students who visit get their application fee waived, and 0ut-of-State students get a 1-time $1,000 travel scholarship. International applicants can have the TOEFL waived if they completed 3 years in an English-speaking school; otherwise, they need a 79 on the test.

Stetson 8Students are automatically considered for Merit Scholarships up to $33,000. Music scholarships are done separately and require an audition; the deadline is 2/25. Non-majors are welcome to apply. Scholarships for DI athletics and ROTC are also available. These are stackable with merit scholarships. The J. Ollie Edmunds Scholarship awards 1 full-ride scholarship each year: students with a 3.5 GPA are eligible to apply. They usually get about 350 applications for this. Four finalists are selected from this pool to come to campus to interview. The winner gets everything paid (including fees) plus 2 study abroad stipends. Additional scholarships for those qualified for the JOE scholarship include one for Humanities, Environmental Sustainability, Writing, and Business Systems and Analytics.

Stetson 2We asked students on the panel to complete this phrase: “I want to thank Stetson for …”

  • Making me who I am.
  • The people. I had a question for a professor who couldn’t answer it right away but had an answer in my email by the next day.
  • Lots of connections with professors and the alumni.
  • Being welcoming. Sometimes change is hard. They did a good job at making the transition easier. People reach out. Everyone has a hard transition but no one admits it. Everyone has that moment when it clicks and you know you’re supposed to be here. The support is here.
  • Expecting us to step up into leadership positions.
  • I had a wakeup call with academics. You might have been the best student in High School, but they expect a lot here. I had a 20 page paper due but never wrote one longer than 5 before. I wasn’t getting the grade I wanted, but the professor met with me in the coffee shop and worked with me. The writing center is there. You can do it.

© 2016

Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University (visited 2/12/16)

J'ville waterfrontSitting directly on the St. John’s River (which is one of two rivers that runs north – the other being the Nile), JU’s Marine Science Research Institute is top-notch. The city of Jacksonville is industrial, and the university does a lot to help lower the impact of the city on the local environment. It’s a “sweet water river” which flows out of the swamps. The water’s brown color has nothing to do with pollution; instead, it’s from tannins in the swamps.

J'ville Marine Sci Inst

Marine Science building

J'ville Marine lab

Tanks on the first floor of the Marine Science building.

The Marine Science building is new with amazing resources. The ground floor has tanks, flumes to simulate currents, and more. The 2nd floor has classrooms, labs, and meeting rooms. Several students were there studying; when I spoke to them, they were excited about the major and the school in general. “It’s an 8.5 on a 1-10 scale,” and “Tell your students to come here! The faculty ratio is great,” they said. They love that they can do cross-disciplinary work such as assessments of Coral Reefs: aviation majors fly the drone, engineering students run the tools, marine science majors examine the coral reef health. “There’s also an abnormally high number of people who start their own business,” said the Director of the program.

 

J'ville swing“Trans-disciplinary learning is nothing new here,” said one of the deans. This is the only school in Florida to require a class in economics: “Macro-economics requires a holistic view of the global economics.” The school invests in personal enrichment and community engagement. “The community today is the globe.” This leads to innovative research that students are excited about. “We are at the top 4% nationally for the number of submissions and acceptances for national undergraduate research conferences. We beat all the Ivy-league schools.” They had the highest number of accepted proposals (126) beating out even the top Ivy (Cornell had 115).

Business, Health Sciences, and Fine & Performing Arts are strong

  • Their Kinesiology program is highly hands-on and cross-disciplinary; one well-liked project is the bio-chemical assessment of athletes which lets students in that department work with biology, chemical engineering, and other students.
  • J'ville nursing lab

    Nursing department

    The Nursing department is selective; faculty interviews potential students as part of the admissions process. They have direct entry, but students can also apply during freshman year.

  • Their Emergency Nurse Practitioner program is 1 of only 7 in the country.
  • The Education department has a pre-school on campus for 2-5 year olds; students intern there all the time.
  • Business majors can specialize in International or Sport Business or Accounting.
  • The Fine Art Complex is amazing, including a glass-blowing major and minor. A
    J'ville glass 2

    The glass-blowing studio

    freshman gave us a glass-blowing demonstration and almost finished making a bowl in the 20 minutes we were there. “The oven typically runs at about 2200 degrees; it’s running cool today at 2000.”

  • In additional to the traditional types of art, students can also do sculpture, animation, illustration, and graphic design.
  • They have a Dance major in addition to Theater Arts.
J'ville flight sim 3

The Advanced CRJ simulator

The size and quality of their Aviation Management and Operations major surprised me. Of the 160 students in the program, 22% are women. When asked who attends here versus Embry-Riddle, the Director of the program said, “ERAU is more the engineering, building of aircraft, etc. You can learn to fly at either place, but if you want to learn the business end of things, this is where you want to be.” The flying aspect costs an extra $65,000 over the student’s time at school.

 

J'ville aviation bldg

Inside the Aviation building

NROTC has 54 students who take classes on campus; they’re ready to be commissioned right out of college. They participate in many local events including at the nearby base. They complete 4-6 week training cruises (or an equivalent: a Nursing student spent a summer at Walter Reed) all 3 summers.

J'ville outdoor work area

The outdoor working area with tables and electrical outlets

The new President, an alum, has invested a great deal of money into the university. He had been in the business world for a long time, and he’s invested in making the school better. “Our campus has never looked more beautiful. There are a number of improvements: a new residence hall for freshmen, a new outdoor leisure space (which is used extensively as a study place, and even has electrical outlets), and a new workout center. We’ve also created new scholarships to appropriately reward students.”

J'ville apts 2

Some of the apartment buildings for upperclassmen

There’s a 3-year residency requirement, but many students stay because of the new apartment buildings; the surrounding area also doesn’t get rave reviews, but all students can have cars on campus. The current president sent people up to look at UVA’s dorms and replicated them, adding study spaces, fireplaces, etc. They want to make the most of their location and their buildings. The River House had been the President’s house, but eventually was slated to be taken down for parking. When the current President came in, he nixed that: “we don’t need a parking lot with this view.” It overlooks the water, the campus pool and sand volleyball court, and more. Now it’s used for meetings, the Ratskeller, and more. Lots of students have cars on campus.

J'ville golf practice

The golf practice area

Greek life is very small, but sports are a big deal and they’re very proud of their teams. They currently have 501 student athletes, and 18/20 teams have a 3.0+ GPA. Retention rate among athletes is 94% with a good graduation rate. They’re DI “mid-major” (no PAC, Big 10, etc), including Beach Volleyball, Shooting, and Crew (“The women’s team is great! The men’s team… meh”). Campus has a practice green for golf, intramural fields, even an outdoor workout station. They just hired a Director of Ticketing, Sales, and Game Day Experience; attendance and school spirit is way up. The Athletic Director is also a full-time business professor who talked to us for a few minutes. “We win with honor and win in the classroom.”

J'ville art studio

One of the art studios

Students who have left have done so for a variety of reasons: some had bad experiences with a coach, didn’t want to go to class, wanted to hide in a bigger class, bombed their first year and lost a scholarship, etc. That being said, JU is “pretty good at second chances.” One student spoke of a friend who failed a class and was put on probation but dug her way out of the hole and is doing great now. “Send us your B+ students. We can change their lives.”

© 2016

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology (visited 2/10/14)

FIT signFlorida Tech did a great job in showcasing the things that make them who they are, mainly their sciences and their engineering (the 2 schools that enroll 70% of their students). They combine the best of liberal arts with a technical research school: “We do science-based science here!”

FIT 5This is one of the best-kept secrets in physics and space sciences including Astrobiology, Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Planetary Science. “It’s pretty weird hanging out in Buzz Aldren’s house talking about life on Mars,” said a professor.

FIT historyFounded in 1958 by the same people who founded NASA, Florida Tech has kept a close working relationship with them: “If we need help, we have all their resources at our disposal and vice versa. If you have students who want to work for NASA, this is the school.” You can literally walk outside and watch launches. “Drive 45 minutes and you can FEEL the launch,” said a professor.

FIT telescope 2

One of the school’s telescopes

Students and faculty have access to all sorts of amazing telescopes such as the 10.4-meter telescope in the Canary Islands, the Hubble, and they’re helping with James Webb telescope that will launch in 2018. They’re even looking to launch their own space telescope. They work with a ground-based, 1-m telescope network around the world in places like Tucson, Chile, and the Canary Islands. They can log on and use them through the internet “which saves a lot on time and money.” To really study the universe, people need dry, high, and dark conditions; “Florida is wet, low, and near Disney World.”

The telescope on campus is used for ground-based tracking, training purposes, and LEO (Low Earth Orbit). It can laser 10Gigabits per second and can correct for atmosphere “twinkle.” They get a 2-minute warning for satellites that will be crossing its path so they can get it shut off, and they work with the FAA to make sure nothing they do interferes with aircraft.

FIT rooftop classroom

The Rooftop Classroom with attachments for telescopes

All the astro-sciences work closely with the meteorology and aviation meteorology departments. The strip between Melbourne and Tampa is the mostly heavily lightening-hit area in the country. “We’re a rocket school. We build rockets. We launch a rocket into a storm cloud to trigger the lightning and ‘sprites’ so we can take pictures.” They also study space weather.

Another cool thing is that they can use the International Space Station as a lab. They propose research and have it done all the time such as work on Amyloid fiber growth in weightlessness compared to the ground. They have an experimental camera that will soon be attached to the outside of the ISS and remain there for 6 months. Research here can range from the smallest fundamental particles to the large-scale galaxy.

FIT student projects

Student projects in the Engineering Department

There are 14 engineering majors including Ocean Engo. Students who are undecided can start in General Engineering and take an Intro to Engineering class where they can learn a bit about all areas, including research, job opportunities, and other things. The first year for all Engineering programs are almost identical: math, physics, a couple electives, an intro to Engineering class, etc. Kids who do well here tend to have taken Calculus in high school, “even if it’s a C, they’ve at least been exposed to it.” Being behind in math will hold up the whole process. However, they work hard to keep students on track and provide as many opportunities as possibly, including study abroad options.

FIT engo bldg

The Maker-Space building

They have a huge new “maker-space” where engineering students can work in groups on whatever project they have going. Some classes are held there, but mostly it’s open and available for students to build whatever models or projects they need. One of the interesting things they’ve done recently is making a solar-powered auto-drive luggage delivery system for the Melbourne airport.

The gender imbalance is still seen throughout most of the engineering department with only Biomed being even at 50/50; Chemical is close at about 60/40. Mechanical has the most skewed ratio with the percentage of females in the teens.

FIT marine specimins

Specimens in the Marine Bio lab

Biological Sciences are strong as evidenced in the 75-80% medical school admission rate. (students have the option of majoring in PreMedical Chemistry or Medical Biology but do not need to in order to apply to med school). Marine science, Aquaculture, and Conservation Biology are all heavy hitters and are hands-on, experiential education. “We’re interested in being great teachers and researchers.” They have sea tanks, mollusks, dark rooms, sea horses. “Think of them when you look at the ooky stuff.” They keep samples in all sorts of jars, including a Party Mix jar (the roly-poly they had on display next to a baby King Crab). They’re doing work on the Lion Fish, an invasive, dangerous species that spread during a hurricane. They want to know how they manage to adapt and thrive from NJ to the Caribbean.

FIT acad quad 1

Part of the Science Quad with a marsh in the middle

People tend to forget about the Computer Sciences here, including data mining, software engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Info Systems, mining as well as Cyber-security and Homeland Security. They’ve been named a Center for Excellence, one of only 8 in the country.

About 40% of students go onto grad school; many stay at there to do it. The Fast Track Master’s Programs allows students to get a BS and Master’s in 5 years rather than 6. Students need a 3.4 GPA at 90 credits (mid Junior Year). If accepted, they can start their graduate work by taking 6 credits in their senior year that will count for both undergrad and graduate degrees.

FIT mascot and pool

A mascot statue by the campus pool

Things students particularly like about Florida Tech are:

  • There are a ton of social activities, so there are lots of leadership opportunities. It’s a great campus for ambitious students.
  • You can get right into the major.
  • There are lots of international students.

Thing they would like to change are improve would be a football stadium, more land to grow the university, and more outdoor seating to study.

FIT dorms

Some of the dorms

Campus is not that large, but they do have trolleys that will take kids around campus. There are plenty of housing options including new dorms with suites and two off-campus buildings “which are nice, but people in traditional halls made better friendships,” said one student. Greek housing is located at “Panther Bay;” 13% of the population goes Greek. The dining hall is “great! It’s on a 6-week rotation so you won’t see the same foods for at least 6 weeks. They’ve worked with international students on getting recipes so there’s a lot of international food, too,” said one of our tour guides. The campus is largely residential, surprisingly, the population is almost evenly split with about 1/3 of the students coming from Florida, out-of-state, and international countries with 120 countries represented. Racial and religious diversity is evident as we walked around, including seeing women in hijab and a Burqa.

FIT 747 students are enrolled in the campus Army ROTC program; Florida Tech ranks 2nd highest in the country for 2nd Lieutenants upon graduation. ROTC pays for tuition and fees; RIT kicks in the R&B. Students can get a degree in Interdisciplinary Science: Military Science or Communications: Military Science if they’d like.

© 2016

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach)

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach campus (visited 2/11/16)

ERAU 3

One of the academic buildings; the telescope sits right in the middle

This campus is sleek and modern with new buildings going up. The new student center (fall 2017) will have a rooftop area to watch launches and new dorms are being built with the first students moving in the fall of 2016. Even the welcome center is impressive: it feels like an Omni theater. It’s also a walkable campus; “I can get from the furthest dorms to the academic center in about 15 minutes without rushing,” said our tour guide.

ERAU airplane sculpture 4Students here have a common passion. They don’t just wake up one day and decide to do aeronautics. The tour guide said, “I can always tell who will do well here. I watch them when airplanes take off and land. If they stop to watch, they’ll fit in. Those who don’t should probably go somewhere else.” The admissions rep said, “These are kids who sit at airports and drool or stare at the sky night after night. They want to come here because they have a passion. We want to work with them.”

ERAU airport

The airport is adjacent to campus

Students can earn 1 or all 4 flight ratings while they’re here: Private, commercial, instrumental, and multi-engine. Students need a 1st or 2nd class medical clearance before they even get to school; the reps suggest getting the 1st class if they’re thinking about commercial airlines so they already know they qualify. Flight costs are on a pay-as-you-go basis above and beyond tuition, room, and board costs. For the first and second year, it averages $23,000/yr. For the third year it drops to about $15,000. Students can become Flight Instructors in the 4th year. In terms of scholarship money, if tuition isn’t covered, scholarships won’t go towards flight costs, but if students come in with enough money above and beyond tuition costs, it can help cover flight costs.

ERAU flight check

The Pre-Flight check area

Academics are strong and employers snatch up Embry-Riddle graduates, often with higher starting salaries than those coming from other schools. A faculty member said, “My students are my reputation. When I send them out, they represent me.” Students are challenged here and can apply to the Honors Program, but can also take advantage of individual tutoring labs for a variety of subjects if needed.

ERAU flight complexThere are a range of majors within 4 colleges at ERAU:

  • Aviation:
    • Aeronautics and Aeronautical Science: ERAU is #1 in aerospace (beating out the Air Force), and have even provided the Air Force with more pilots than the AFA.
    • Air Traffic Management
    • Aviation Maintenance and Aerospace & Occupational Safety
    • Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science
    • Meteorology
    • Operational Meteorology: Walmart and Home Depot have meteorologists working for them. Where do you draw the “We’re not sending snow blowers or hurricane panels” line? They understand business and weather.
  • ERAU acad bldg 3Business: This only offers 2 majors in Aviation Business and Business Administration
  • Engineering offers what they consider to be Technical Degrees. The average SAT 1390, ACT 32 (compared to 1100 SAT or 27 ACT for non-tech degrees). They would like calc and physics. However, the bare minimum is pre-calc and trig.
  • Arts & Sciences. The base of the telescope is set up in this A&S building; the building is designed to not touch the supports in case of a natural disaster or other problem with the architecture so it won’t damage the telescope.
    • Space Physics, Engineering Physics, Astronomy & Astrophysics
    • Homeland Security and Global Conflict Studies
      • “The learn how to hack into computers …”
      • They offer multiple travel trips every year to places such as Israel, Bosnia, Ireland, and Germany.
    • Computational Mathematics
    • Human Factor Psychology
ERAU propulsion lab

Propulsion lab

In addition, they offer lots of minors including Terrorism Studies, Avionics Line Maintenance, Aviation Law, Flight Test and Simulation, Forensic Accounting, Occupational Safety.

ERAU oxygen lab

Normobaric “Hypoxia” lab

Students start their major curriculum immediately. Labs are amazing with resources most schools only dream about. They have labs for everything including Visualization and Interactive 3D, Cybersecurity Engineering, Experimental Rocket Propulsion, and Destructive and Non-Destructive labs. The Destruction labs have microphones that listen for stress and can stop experiments before breakage occurs. The Spatial Disorientation Lab gets pilots to trust instruments when their senses are telling them something different from the instruments. The High Altitude Normobaric Lab is called the “Hypoxia Lab”: they change the oxygen levels and have students try to perform different tasks like picking up pencils, organizing things by color, and trading things with neighbors. “Everyone becomes like a two-year old.” This is the only university with this type of lab.

ERAU simulator 2

Flight Simulator

Aviation students spend about 20 hours in a CRJ-200 Simulator for their senior capstone. There are also 8 Cesna Simulators and 2 multi-jet simulators. Most students log about 250 hours by graduation; many have more. Our tour guide had logged 350 and is going to continue on as a flight instructor to get up to his 1000 hours required by the commercial airlines. Students who come in already with their private pilot license get 6 credit hours on their transcripts.

Many students take part in ROTC, and ERAU is ranked as one of the top programs in the country. All 3 branches are available here (and Navy has a Marine option), and we saw a lot of students walking around in uniform.

ERAU 5The gender ratio at ER has gotten much better in recent year. “When I started in 2005, it was 17 guys to every female,” said an admission rep who graduated several years ago. “Now it’s about 4.5 to 1.” All females get a $5000 “Women of Excellence” scholarship. They also have all-female Baja and other competition teams. The student at our lunch table said that these are fun and challenging. When they build things, they have to accommodate all the members: “I’m 5’10” – if they pick me to strap in and then get myself out in 5 seconds, it’s a very different thing than for our team member who is 5’1”. We have to plan for that.”

ERAU 7This is a highly residential campus. First-year students must live on campus, mostly in traditional style dorms. Upperclassmen have access to suite- and apartment-style dorms. They are redoing dorms in phases; one of the new sections will be done in the spring and they’ll start moving people over so they can start the next phase. Campus activities are plentiful (the free Thursday night movies got a couple mentions). Athletics are transitioning to NCAA DII. The dining hall is good; students get a certain number of swipes per week that do not roll over, “but we can cash out our unused swipes for food at the market.”

Daytona Beach is located in tropical, coastal Central Florida providing for excellent flight conditions. They’re close to Orlando, Jacksonville, and Cape Canaveral. Not only does that provide lots of opportunities for co-ops (very big here) and other internships, it gives students lots to do.

ERAU doesn’t take the Common App – but they are test optional. Students can still get scholarships without the score, but in order to get the maximum amount, they should turn them in. They ask for at least 2 letters of recommendation but will take more. “Think of it as an interview” said the rep. “It gives us a way to get to know the student.” International Students do not need a TOEFL if they’ve spent 2 years at an English-speaking school and their grades are good. Otherwise, they need at least a 79 on the exam. Also, if they want merit-scholarships, they do need to submit the SAT or ACT. Serious cross-apps usually also apply to places like MIT, Georgia Tech, Florida Tech, and the Service Academies.

© 2016

Southeastern University

Southeastern University (visited 2/5/16)

SEU archTo 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.

SEU statueThis 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.”

St Leo treeApplicants 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.

SEU 2A 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!”

SUE butterfly statueSoutheastern’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.

SEU new LLC bldg

The new LLC construction

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.

SEU dorms

One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front

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!”

SEU stadium

The football stadium

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.

SEU sci bldg

The Science building

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.

© 2016

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