campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Florida”

Flagler College

Flagler College (visited 2/12/16)

Flagler studentsOne thing that makes Flager stand out is that they’re rooted heavily in the liberal arts: there’s no engineering, no math major (yet; they have a minor), and no science departments – with the notable exception of their new Coastal Environmental Science program, now one of their biggest departments.

Coastal Environmental Science is the hardest major to get into. The difference between this and general Envi Sci is that “this is specific to the Coast. We don’t do volcanoes or tundras or mountains. Go to App State if you want the mountains. The coast is where most of the stress is; it’s where most of the population of the world lives; it’s where most of the job opportunities are. The job prospects are never going away.”

Flagler walkwayCurrently there are only 2 labs “and they’re pretty standard on purpose. The program is designed around our location. A lot of the teaching is done outside.” Students spend time in and around the water, including a nearby lighthouse where students can stay overnight. They don’t teach organic chemistry but they do aquatic and other specialized chemistry (one professor specializes in bio-geo-chemistry): “We do have students who go off to med school from here; they just need to plan ahead and do a couple summer courses somewhere else.”

Flagler 6A few other strong or unusual majors are:

“It’s not enough to have a college degree; you need to be able to show what you’ve done and talk about what you want to do with it.” All majors and minors require a capstone experience of some sort whether is research, an internship, or something else. Overall, 71% of students completed an experiential learning opportunity. Currently, some students are working on “Fish Communities and effects of plastic on the environment.” This hasn’t been done before and is going to end up in a publication for the students.

Flagler 4When asked, “Who Is a Flagler Kid?” we were told this: they look for “an academic kid who wants to be involved, wants smaller class sizes, and who appreciates where we’re located” (historic city, historic building). They do a great job with the B/middle-of-the-road kid who comes in liking 2 or 3 things and are willing to take some time to try them out. They should be somewhat self-motivated to look for internships, etc. There’s help and resources, but no one is going to force them to use them. Students should be invested in themselves.

Flagler Edison towerFlagler has no Greek Life but there are honor societies. There are about 55 student clubs including a Surf club, Deaf Awareness, creative writing, religious groups (Christian, Jewish, general religion), and political groups. Students agree that there’s a good split of politics on campus, but “people get along. There’s lots of discussion. “

Flagler male dorm

One of the male dorms


The average GPA hovers around a 3.5 with 1050 SAT or 23 ACT. International students need a TOEFL of 75. The exceptions to this are students applying to the Education and Coastal Envi Sci departments. Just over half of the 2,500 undergraduates come from Florida. The 40% out-of-state domestic students come from all over with the NY, NJ, MD, VA, and GA being the next most represented states. Just over 5% of the population is international from 43 foreign countries. They are actively trying to increase racial diversity on campus. They offer an additional scholarship to students “if they’re diverse in any way.”

Flagler 4

The Flagler Hotel – now a main building on campus with the dining hall and women’s dorm

The cost also makes Flagler stand out: at their current rate of $26,500 per YEAR (tuition, R&B), they run about 50% of the national cost of a liberal arts school. Most students receive financial aid, but “you aren’t going to see huge scholarships because our costs are already so much cheaper than other places.” The top merit scholarship is about $3,000.

Flagler female dorm

Hallway in the women’s dorm

There is a first-year residency requirement. Females are housed in the historic hotel originally owned by Henry Flagler. Each room is different and houses anywhere from 2-5 girls. As a trade-off, each room has its own bathroom (no shared baths in the building) and the dining hall is downstairs. Most freshmen males are housed across the street in a large building with all doors opening to the outside; most of these are suites so they share 1 bathroom between 2 rooms. Several athletes are housed closer to the athletic fields. Coed visitation is not allowed at any time; we were surprised by this since this has never been a religiously affiliated school. It’s also a dry campus, and they have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs.

Flagler dining hall

The dining hall with Tiffany windows

The main campus is contained within a 2-block area with a few exceptions. The new communications building is about a block away among city buildings, and the athletic fields are a mile or so off campus. On campus, the old Flagler Hotel dominates the scene; outside is beautiful outdoor area for student to congregate, socialize, and work. There are plenty of shaded seating areas and trees with plugs everywhere so students can stay connected. The art building next door is only open to art students who have to swipe their cards to get in. The dining hall has the largest collection of Tiffany stained glass. The library is very light and airy. The Edison Smoke Stack provided electricity to the hotel and campus 3 years before the White House got electricity.

Flagler comm bldg

The Communications Department tucked among houses on a side street off campus

We asked the students on the panel about their favorite classes and why they liked them:

  • Sign Language. All the teachers are deaf so it was intense was first. I took my first class here and knew nothing. We had an interpreter at first but then were on our own.
  • Political Leaders of the 20th Century: it was my professor, 1 other student, and myself. We would read what we were interested in and discussed for 45 minutes.
  • My internship with the Sheriff’s office. It’s not a classroom environment.
  • Criminal Behavior: the professor was amazing. We got to do a lot of profiling.

What do you love?

  • The First Year experience has been really important. Orientation was good; we had something every day and every night. Showing up at class a week later, I knew people.
  • The professors. You get to have the same ones several times, and they help us with internships. I can go to office hours for whatever. I had coffee the other day with one of them and just chatted.
  • I came here undecided. Taking smaller discussion-based classes were helpful. I was a good student in high school but not great. Being put into these classes helped me find what I really was interested in.
  • I thought I knew why I loved it until I took a class called Oral Histories. Now I’m interviewing alumni from the 60s and 70s about how it’s changed. I didn’t know how many alumni worked here. I love that!
Flagler plaza 3

The hotel courtyard

What would you like changed or improved?

  • Have some sort of building for a community center. I’d like to involve the town and the university. We should be working together and have events together.
  • We’re in a historical district, so it’s hard to get more parking. It’s an issue.
  • Add a science building with more labs, including a sterile lab.
  • Build a residence hall with a full kitchen. I like to cook!
  • Add a math department! Maybe it’ll also draw more males.
  • Have school shuttles to stores and other places (including airports) that are just for students.

© 2016

Rollins College

Rollins College (visited 2/9/16)

Rollins waterfrontWinter Park is a charming small-town, conveniently located on the outskirts of Orlando. It’s an attractive location because it’s a mix of small town with an accessible urban area; they can be at the beach in 45 minutes or downtown Orlando in 25. Rollins students interact with town every day, partly by choice and partly because of the community service-based learning and civic engagement that’s women into the fabric of the education. Students are connected to – and they contribute to – the community.

Rollins Chapel ceiling hand painted

Interior of the Chapel

This is a residential liberal arts campus with a clear mission. The campus is well kept-up and attractive with a couple buildings on the National Register (the non- denominational Chapel which has a hand-painted ceiling and the Theater are listed).

The President talked extensively about fit when he addressed us. They want students who are going to take advantage of the school and fit into the fabric of the college. “I felt compelled to come here because of synergy of mission and location. It’s education tuned into the 21st Century; it’s diverse and provides a skill set to be global citizens and responsible leadership.”

Rollins walkway stones 2

Walkways are lined with stones carved with people who’ve done great things “to inspire us!”

“Rollins is not a spectator sport.” There’s all the learning that happens in Dialogue (their General Eds), in relationships between faculty and students, between peers, etc. They live in this community that has been well-suited for exactly this purpose.

The curriculum has 3 main components:

  1. “Dialogues” or General Education:
    1. It’s developmental in that students move together as a cohort, completing an FCC in the first semester and then into Neighborhoods in the spring of freshman year. This is to help them make connections because of the thematically based classes. Some examples are: Physics and Superheroes; Identities: Mirrors and Windows; Writing About the Magic Kingdom; Men, Masculinity, and Movies (“We watched Fight Club and Magic Mike. What’s not to like?”
    2. Skill-building. This program ensures that they have identifiable, marketable skills
    3. 100-level classes stress written communication and information literacy. They can test out of language, writing, and math, but must do health and wellness at Rollins. The Scuba class final exam was in the Caymans
  1. Major Requirements
  2. Electives: students must complete 16 credits outside of their major and Gen Ed

Rollins courtyard 1Classes are capped at 25. Many of the tour guide’s classes (in the business program) are at the cap, but she’s also had classes of 5 (Art History).

The Accelerated Management Program allows students to graduate in 3 years. Every year 35-40 students start. The yield is not as high as they’d like; many students start then start getting interested in a lot of things and don’t want to finish in 3 years, even though they can. Some simply change their mind. For students who are motivated and know what they want, it’s a great option.

Rollins hammockThe 3+2 Engineering program offers joint degrees with Wash U, Auburn, and Columbia. Only a few do this; more do it as a 4-2. They also have a program in Forestry with Duke, but this is done less frequently than the Engineering program.

Study Abroad is part of the culture here. They offer lots of summer programs to accommodate double majors, athletes, and others who can’t or don’t want to be away for a full year or semester. “We try to be mindful that not all students can take an entire semester off and still graduate on time, so faculty will offer field-study in May, summer, and winter that will carry academic credit.” They’ll work with people to find the program they want, and students can also do Study-Away in the US. Additionally, they offer a Pre-matriculation program: students arrive 2 weeks before orientation and go to Costa Rica with a professor. They accept about 15 students; they send out info to all accepted students and can apply after they deposited.

Rollins greek housing

Some of the Greek housing on campus

There’s a perception that students at Rollins are super rich, but a larger percentage attend with scholarships and financial aid. The average aid package is $35,000 and average indebtedness at graduation is $29,500. The Alfond Scholars Program is the most competitive program, providing up to 10 full scholarships (tuition, R&B, and fees). This is funded by the Alfond Inn near campus; the family donated the funds to build it with the stipulation that all proceeds go into the scholarships. “The competition is like American Idol for Brainiacs who also have a passion for global learning and giving back.”

Rollins 2Classes are small. There’s no going to class unprepared. If you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s no hiding it. The professor calls you out – but there’s also a lot of support. “There was this one time that I just wasn’t getting stuff. Class ended at 6pm, and I literally sat on the ground with my feet out in front of my staring at the board, not getting it. The professor sat on the ground next to me and stayed until 9 to make sure I got it.”

Rollins Presidents ScooterStudents say that there’s a lot of openness in regards to political views, but it’s “very left-leaning” according to the student panel. “We’re trained to dialogue and not debate in res life. I feel that there needs to be more dialogue because that’s the way to learn.” Students generally are very happy on campus, but given the opportunity, they’d spend money on scholarships, parking, and lab space. Freshmen can’t have cars except for medical reasons, if they work, and a few other reasons. The President even takes a scooter to work!

The students love Fox Day, and the tour guide took us past the spot on campus where the fox statue gets rolled out in the middle of the night; when it’s placed out, it’s a day off of classes. “There’s even a camera you can see online so you don’t even have to get out of bed! You can just go back to sleep.”

© 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.

Lynn comm room 2

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.

Lynn pond and medication cntr 3

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

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

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University (visited 2/9/16)

St Leo treeThis is a stunning campus: clean, well-landscaped, and with new/renovated buildings that seem to have been planned out and meant to go together. There’s plenty of open space with a lake on the edge of campus. Students seem genuinely happy here: they’re interacting with each other and using all sorts of spaces available to them.

St Leo chapel int

Interior of the Chapel

Located in the small town of Saint Leo, this is a religious school with definite Catholic overtones. “Students are spiritual. There’s a sense of faith, but it’s not forced.” Students do have to take 2 religion classes but there’s enough variety to satisfy everyone. The campus chapel hosts masses which they open to the public; student attendance is not mandatory. Monks and nuns still live on campus and some of them even run a local garage to pay for electricity, etc

St Leo tea in library

The coffee and tea table in the library

The Core Values of the school (Respect, Excellence, Personal Development, Integrity, Community, and Responsible Stewardship) are heavily integrated into the curriculum and in other ways across campus. For example, the new Business building incorporated wood from the trees cut down to create space for the building. The library has coffee and tea out all the time for the students; the area was neat and well kept up. A couple students were helping themselves and picking up after themselves to keep it in good shape for the next person.

St Leo quad 3This is a residential campus with lots of open space. All freshmen and students need the unlimited meal plan. Once students move into a building with a kitchen (and most upperclassmen end up with their own rooms), they can drop down to the 5 or 10 meals a week plan. One of the dorms has an amazing lounge (open to all students) with a huge fish tank designed by Tanked (take a look for it on the Discovery Chanel!), a game room (including SkeetBall and pinball), plenty of tvs, and even sleep pods!

St Leo fishtanks

The fish tank

The 2,370 students come from almost every state and 66 countries drawing heavily from the Caribbean and South America. It’s almost evenly split gender-wise (with slightly more females than males). Tuition, Room, and Board run $30,700 making it a great deal.

St Leo activities

Monthly activity calendar

I talked to several students in the dining hall who said they all were really happy with the school: “Tell your students to come here!” said one student, and others nodded in agreement. They did make sure to say that social life revolves around campus. The town of St. Leo has very little to do, but Dade City is a 5-10 minute drive. Another said, “Bring a car or you’re out of luck!” Orlando is an hour or so away (and Orientation includes a trip to Disney or Epcot). Greek life is present but not huge. Freshmen can’t rush until they earn a certain number of credits. Bingo is a big deal on campus. “They give away insane prizes like GoPro, X Boxes, etc. People get really hyped up for this. Sometimes it’s even themed, like people will come in costume for Halloween.” Sports are DIII (playing in the Sunshine Sate Conference). Rivals depend on the sport: UT is big because of proximity.

St Leo business classrm

One of the classrooms in the business building

Business (including Sport Business, Health Care Management, and International Tourism & Hospitality Management), Criminal Justice, Education, Social Work, and Computer Science are their flagship programs. Students can choose specialties not often found at schools this size such as Criminalistics or Homeland Security within Criminal Justice or Advanced Literary Study, Dramaturgy, or Professional Writing within the English Department. They offer a Multimedia Management major; students learn management of social media, shoot commercials, etc. They have two 3+1 programs: marketing or management undergraduate with an MBA, and a computer science bachelors with a Masters in Cyber Security. Students in the Honors Program are automatically eligible for these programs (others have to apply).

Students all get a laptop or iPad. If they transfer out, they have to return it, but if they graduate, they can keep it.

Applying is free if done online, and they’re test-optional if the student has a 3.0+ GPA in high school. International students must prove English proficiency either by attending an English-speaking high school for all 4 years, by earning a 450 CR on the SAT (or equivalent ACT), or submitting a TOEFL score; St. Leo does offer a Bridge Program if students need to meet proficiency.

© 2016

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.

Barry 2

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

Keiser University

Keiser University (visited 2/7/16)

Keiser mascotKeiser is in the midst of a massive overhaul and should continue transforming dramatically over the next several years. Until last year, this had been Northwood College, owned and operated as a satellite campus of the parent university in Michigan. Now, the university in its entirety has been bought by Keiser which runs programs all over Florida. This will be their traditional, 4-year, residential campus.

Keiser st cntrThis small campus is Keiser’s flagship and only residential campus. As part of the buy-out agreement, all current students can continue with their Northwood programs. Some of these will phase out as the current students finish, some will continue, and many programs will be added. Most of the Northwood students stayed, and the current seniors, assuming they finish their degree requirements by the end of the school year, will receive Northwood diplomas. All others will receive Keiser diplomas.

They licensed all the programs for 4 years so it’s a seamless transition. In addition to those programs, they’re picking up all of Keiser’s health care and liberal arts programs. There was also very little faculty turnover; 2 retired, a couple others left. They did hire more so they have more working here than before.

Keiser dorm courtyard 2

The dorms and courtyard.

“Students First” is the recurring theme. President Tom Duncan (a PhD in PoliSci and an Anglican Priest from the Ozarks) welcomed us as we arrived, shaking everyone’s hand and chatting. In his opening remarks, he said, “I suspect that we’re not going forward as a liberal arts program but more comprehensive with business and health care, maybe computer science. It’ll be a little more practical, more hands-on.” He’s very proud that the accreditation team visited and found nothing wrong (although without a health or counseling center on campus – according to the admissions rep I spoke to – I’m not sure how that’s possible. I hope this is one of the areas they work on quickly).

Keiser 2Students seem to come here for the sports or for very specific academic programs. The panel of students we spoke to included:

  • A sophomore from the Bahamas, majoring in Finance and Econ. He was looking for good academics, a positive atmosphere, and the ability to connect to professors. He said he was surprised at how friendly people were: “I had an image from American movies, but people so nice here!” It’s why he stays.
  • A senior from Columbia, majoring in Int’l business and finance. She likes the small classrooms and personal connections. “We’re surrounded by people we know and we’re familiar with.” He started playing baseball but got injured.
  • A Marketing and Advertising Major came here because of her passion for business. “There are lots of volunteering opportunities and options to join clubs.”
  • A sophomore Canadian student is enrolled in the Automotive Marketing and Management program. “It’s a pretty specific program. Not many schools offer it.”
  • A student from Texas transferred from a school in Iowa. She plays volleyball here. “We live in paradise!”

Their athletic program is particularly strong; their 17 DII teams (19 next year with the addition of lacrosse and swimming) play in the NAIA against schools like SCAD and Johnson & Wales. Women’s golf won last year and are currently #1 ranked. (As a side note: golfers have a GPA of 3.92). They offer $1,000 athletic scholarships.

Keiser bell tower 5Driving into campus felt like a wilderness preserve. They own 100 acres, most of which is not currently being used. They’ve received a level 6 accreditation which means they can offer doctoral programs, and they plans for expansion and new buildings. Enrollment is currently 600 full-time undergrads with a goal for 1000 within 3 years. They’re approved for 1800 students, but would ultimately like to go beyond that. Application numbers are soaring with 2.5 times as many applications as this time last year. Students need a minimum of 2.75 GPA and a 16 ACT or 880 SAT to get in. About 1/3 of the students are international; the TOEFL or SAT/ACT is needed when their high school instruction wasn’t in English. Keiser offers good merit scholarships, also available to international students.

Health Care programs are strong. They offer programs such as BioMedical Technology (also counts as their Pre-Med program), Dietetics and Nutrition, and Imaging Sciences. They’ve just been approved to offer a BSN this fall. They’ll pull in 2 cohorts a year (1 each semester) with 24 students per cohort. Eventually, this campus will offer every 4-year health program that Keiser offers. Currently, they don’t have labs built, but they should be open by the fall of 2016.

The Sports Medicine & Fitness Technology programs looks for motivated, disciplined, people who want to help others. “Students in this program are a mix of brains and brawn. They usually embrace a health lifestyle, and perhaps want to pursue a career in PT, Chiropractics, or OT.”

Sports Management is a BS or a BBA degree: students hit the ground running when they get here, and almost half get weeded out: “They realize they want to have fun, but this really is a business. This isn’t what they pictured it to be.” They give students a combination of sports management AND business to appeal to both types of employers. About 2/3 of students get a job in the field upon graduation, higher than the 50% national average, and they’re also well prepared for grad or law school through an internship and a practicum. They get jobs in professional and college sports, Sport tourism, Facility management, Adventure sports, Sports Agent, or sport lawyers.

Keiser golf school 3In the College of Golf Management students become teachers, go into the Hospitality industry, design clubs or golf courses, etc. Right now, this is an AA degree, and students usually continue on to do a BS in Sports Management. They have a very high placement rate for students in this program. They have 3 PGA professionals on staff.

We asked the student panelists about their favorite class:

  • Entrepreneurship: “I always loved it. I spoke to the teacher and he invited me to a class and that extended to the whole semester. I love verbal communication and he spoke right to us. No PowerPoints or anything. Being able to sit in on a class I didn’t even have to register for was great.”
  • Capital Investments: “It gave me knowledge I could apply to my internships.”
  • Principles of Advertising. “It teaches you a little psychology and how to sell. It’s really interesting! I want to be involved in all aspects of my business.”
  • Italian: “I like learning languages.”
  • Current trends in Advertising. “There were only 5 students. We bring in articles and talk about what’s new. Next week’s project will be the Super Bowl commercials.”

© 2016

University of Miami

University of Miami (visited 1/25-26/13)

UM flew 40 counselors in from around the country for 2 ½ days on campus. They planned a full schedule, and we walked away with a much better sense of the university and of the surrounding area. UM is located in beautiful suburban Coral Gables with easy access to the major metro area of Miami (including having a MetroRail stop on the edge of campus). Although Miami has 10,000 students, it feels smaller because they have 9 undergraduate colleges such as Architecture, Education, Nursing, and Marine Science (plus 2 grad programs in law and medicine). With 180 areas of study, students have a way to find what they’re interested in, including double majoring or multiple minors – or even just dabbling in other areas. Some of the programs are competitive for admission, but nothing is impacted. They are in the process of changing their undergrad curriculum: Gen Ed requirements are changing to “Cognates” – students can take 2 Cognates of 9 credits each, spread throughout the undergrad curriculum. It allows them to take ownership of what they’re learning since they’re encouraged to be hands-on early in college. This gives them the chance to know if they really want to continue in that major, and it gives them a competitive edge.

On the first night of the Fly-in, the admissions office arranged for us to meet with several students informally at the opening reception. This was a great opportunity for one-on-one discussions. They were all eager to talk and share stories about their experiences. I spoke with several of them about their favorite classes at Miami. One said that the Survey of Marine Mammals “made her college experience.” They got to swim with manatees and dolphins and it got them involved in the community through work with different organizations. After the class, she started the Stranded Marine Mammal Club, working often with pilot whales that had beached themselves. There was one that they were not able to save, and they got to dissect it back on campus. Another student loved her Caribbean Lit class. In addition to the typical reading and analyzing that happens in a lit class, they had to interview people in Miami who were from the nations in the Caribbean that they were reading about. A third student said that his favorite class was the National Student Advertising Competition which he described as an “exhausting, psychotic class” that took about 20-30 hours a week. They created an ad for Nissan that year and placed 4th place nationally; the year before, the class did an ad for JCPenney and placed first.

The most popular class on campus, apparently, is US Health Care Crisis: Politics and Policies taught by the president of the college, Donna Shalala. It consistently fills to capacity of 280 students (the size of the largest auditorium on campus). As a former advisor to President Clinton, she knows the ins and outs of what she’s teaching. People from DC will skype in to talk to the class, and she even brought in Clinton to teach a class once when he was in town. However, kids say that even though she worked for Clinton, she tries to present as balanced a perspective as possible, in class and at the university as a whole. For example, during the election, Obama came to campus three times and Romney came twice.

I asked the students what they’d like prospective students to know about their school; one said, “We’re not the stereotypical Miamian! We’re friendly and down to earth.” Another said that she wanted people to know that it’s a medium university, not large; that it’s private, not public; and that they aren’t actually in downtown Miami but in Coral Gables (so more of a residential area). They said that one of the great things is that the weather allows them to be outside all the time which leads to more interaction among students, and there was definitely a lot going on around campus regardless of the time of day we were there. Even though it’s a medium school, the opportunities, the sports, and the school spirit make it feel larger. One student said that she wanted the “Rah-rah” feel that she didn’t get at Hopkins (the other school she was considering). There’s very little that the students would like to change about the school. One answer that popped up over and over is that they wish that the football stadium wasn’t 40 minutes away. Although the school runs fan buses, they would still like it to be more convenient.

The students I spoke to said that their classes ranged from 7, 8, 10 (Spanish), and 19 (math) to the largest of 100ish (bio), 120, 250 (science), and 280 (President Shalala’s class). Larger classes tend to have discussion/breakdown sessions with leaders who are undergrads who had previously taken the class and got at least a B+. They also have to interview for the job, which includes solving problems and explaining who they got there, as if they were teaching other students. They can get credit for doing this as well as getting good experiences.

In terms of admissions, they are becoming more selective all the time. They accepted 150 out of 650 who applied under their ED this year. They had an additional 12,200 apply EA and 15,600 apply RD for a total freshman class of about 2,500 students. They are a Common App Exclusive school, and they will superscore both the SAT and the ACT, but they do not use the writing portion of either. Music and Theater applicants must audition; they prefer this to be on campus, but will do regional auditions (theater students can do Unified auditions), recognizing that not everyone can get to campus. Architecture students need to submit a portfolio; they’re looking for creativity, not just drawing ability.

There are lots of international students on campus with 52 countries represented in the freshman class. The top countries represented on campus are China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, India, and Columbia. International applicants have the same requirements as domestic students. There’s a LITTLE flexibility with test scores but not much. They do not need TOEFL if their critical reading score is above 500 on the SAT.

They only require the FAFSA for financial aid; the CSS profile isn’t required. Priority deadline for filing the FAFSA is 2/1. There is no separate application for most of their merit aid awards. Some of the scholarships worth mentioning are:

  • Stamps Foundations Scholarship (5 awarded last year) which covers the full cost of attendance plus stipend and is awarded only to ED and EA applicants.
  • Issac Bashevis Singer Scholarship which pays full tuition. Just under 70 last year were awarded last year. Those who qualify will be invited to campus to interview with a faculty member and current student in that area. They must participate to receive the scholarship
  • Ronald Hammond Scholarship: this is full-tuition scholarship for under-represented students is awarded for academic criteria AND character. A rec should come from a “mentor” who can speak to character. They award 50 every year.
  • Students from FL, GA, SC, NC, and AL (and soon TN once Publix stores expand into there) are eligible for the Jenkins Scholarship which is a full ride award. Miami awards three of these, and the students MUST be nominated by counselor with a deadline of 12/1 (although this should be checked in case it changes year-to-year). Selection is based on achievement, test scores, and essay.

(c) 2013

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

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