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Eckerd College

Eckerd College (visited 2/8/16)

Eckerd beach“Eckerd brings out the good in us,” said the student sitting at our table at lunch. “It taught me that I’m pretty tough. I can roll out of bed at 2:00 am and go save people off a sinking boat.”

Eckerd skateboard parking

Skateboard “Parking” can be found around campus

Eckerd sits on about a mile and a half of waterfront property; not a bad place to spend 4 years! However, the administrators are quick to point out a line from Colleges That Change Lives: “On a sunny lush plot of land on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Eckerd College might seem like the perfect spot for an easy college career, four years marked by sun, surf and sand. But if you’re looking for a vacation, you should enroll elsewhere” (http://www.eckerd.edu/about/colleges-that-change-lives). Students describe classes as “intense and rigorous.”

Eckerd hammock 2

Hammocks are all over campus

People are excited about being here and are genuinely nice. “Very few places make the homesickness worth it. This is one of them,” said our tour guide. Less than ¼ of the students come from Florida (and about 5% are international); in fact, the average distance a student travels to attend Eckerd is about 1000  miles. The best way to describe students here are “beachy,” and students will even take extensive use of the yellow bikes on campus to get from place to place … they just grab one that’s free and scoot off to wherever they need to go! If they prefer to use a skateboard, there are even places provided to “park” them inside the buildings. The overarching feel is liberal, according to several students. They’re definitely relaxed and outdoorsy, taking full advantage of their surroundings, but not at the expense of their studies.

Eckerd water center

Waterfront equipment

The Waterfront substitutes for a campus rec center, and students come here for both fun and academics. Students, faculty, and even relatives can rent tents, coolers, fishing rods, and other equipment. In addition to a multitude of organized waterfront events (Fall FunFest, Hoedown, SplashBash, and the Talent Show to name a few), they have daily 2-hour windsailing and waterskiing trips and frequent overnight trips throughout the year such as a 4-day snorkeling trip to the Keys. Classes (wind-surfing, sailing, etc) are discounted for students, and anyone can sign up assuming they’ve passed the swim test. Clubs will also go scuba diving.

Eckerd water front

Boats at the waterfront

Faculty will bring classes to the waterfront; students will go out in kayaks or boats as part of their academics. Students may paddle to islands and read or write there for an English class. Environmental or Marine Science classes use the water and coast as a lab.

EC-SAR (Eckerd College Search and Rescue) is the only college water rescue in the country. It’s entirely student run (with some staff oversight!); they train and certify students to go out. They’re on-call 24 hours a day and go on about 500 calls a year (2nd to the Coast Guard). There’s also a land-based rescue: dispatch for 911 calls to help stabilize people on campus.

Eckerd chapel 1

The campus chapel

This is a Presbyterian-affiliated school, but you’d never know it; although there’s a chapel on campus, it’s non-denominational and there are no other statues or paraphernalia to indicate a religious affiliation.There are no attendance requirements or classes dealing with religion. They have an active Hillel and a club called “Scubie Jew” in which anyone (they don’t have to be Jewish) can get Scuba Certified. “I think they may be changing the name because people thought you did have be Jewish, but it’s kind of catchy so I hope they don’t,” said a tour guide. Students can get free transportation off campus to any service they want in the area. The school also holds alternative services on the beach sometimes.

Eckerd acad quad

Part of the Academic Quad

Admissions looks to bring about 500 first year and about 50 transfer students in a year. “It’s a challenge not to grow,” said one of the admissions representatives. Admissions decisions are done holistically, but scholarships are awarded based on grades and test scores (they’ll superscore ACT and SAT). The application fee is waived if the application is submitted by November 15 – with a guaranteed answer by 12/15. International students need a 550 CR SAT, a 79 TOEFL, or a 3000 word essay.

Eckerd library int

The study room on the main floor of the library

First-year students arrive 3 weeks before upperclassmen to complete orientation and the first class. This is called Autumn Term: “It should be called Sweaty term. There’s nothing Autumn about it,” said a rep. Transfer students CAN do an Autumn term but are not required to. Class runs from 9-12, and then students participate in orientation activities in the afternoons. Of the 25 classes offered, students can choose 6 classes that they’re interested in. Completing this class is a requirement for graduation, but it does not count towards the major. Orientation helps them learn about balance and other things.

Instead of “General Education” requirements, students complete Perspectives. The largest classes for our 2 tour guides were 40 (Chem 1) and 23 (Introduction to Anthropology); smallest were 2 (Latin) and 6 (Religion). Eckerd awards AP credit for 4 or 5 on the exams. Students can come in with up to 9 classes worth of AP, IB, or Dual Enrollment.

Eckerd Sci Cntr 1

The entry to the new science building

The most popular majors are the Natural Sciences (about 1/3 of students), followed by the Social Sciences (just under 1/4 of the students), Business (about 20%), then Arts & Communications and Humanities (both just over 10%). Marine Science, Geosciences, Human Development, International Business are particularly strong. They offer a 3-2 Engineering & Applied Science program with Columbia and Wash U; “Not as many people take advantage of this as we’d like. Usually they’re here for a reason and will stay for all 4 years to take advantage of the opportunities here.” There’s also a 3-3 Pre-law program.

Eckerd music cntr

The Music building

They’re getting a new Arts center in the Spring of 2017. “You might see a building coming down today. It’s intentional … if they hit the right one,” said the Dean. The main Academic Quad is fairly small; all the buildings have classroom doors that open to the outside. There are no long halls in the buildings. They have recently built a new science center. However, much of the campus is in need of a face-lift; people are mostly willing to overlook it because of the natural beauty of campus, and students see that improvements are being done over time.

Eckerd marine sci bldg

The Marine Science building

Experiential and Service Learning components are built into the fabric of life here. Research is everywhere, and a Mellon Foundation grant allows up to 25 freshmen to start researching immediately. All freshmen have to attend career services and complete 40 hours of reflective learning by junior year. The 2 aspects of this include both course content (1 example: Becoming Visible: Sex and Gender in American Society in which students look into how people can work with diverse populations) and an individual project or alternative spring break trip. They run trips to places like Cuba (looking at faith and lifting the embargo), Panama and Quito (working in orphanages), and Kentucky (poverty in the Appalachians). They’re ranked the #12 college in the US for short-term study abroad and study away: they travel internationally, but also at Ghost Ranch, NM; the Sundance Film Festival, UT; the United Nations, NY; and Woods Hole, MA. They’ve recently partnered with the University of Havana, Cuba so students can study Marine Biology there.

Eckerd dorm 4

One of the bigger dorms on campus sits right on the water

The dorms (all of which are mixed-classes: there are no freshman-only dorms) are named after Greek letters “partially to thumb our noses at Greek Life.” 86% of students live on campus, even though they only are required to live there for the first year. They have themed living, including Gender Neutral dorms. They opened their first one last year, and it’s so popular that they now have a 2nd one.

Eckerd dorms

Another set of dorms

There’s also Pet Friendly living; the Department of Pet Life provides oversight, health and wellness checks, flea and tick medication, and vet visits twice a year. Ten buildings allow pets; dogs have to be at least a year old and owned by the student for at least 10 months; Cats have to be 6 months old and owned for 3 months. “This is to make sure that the students know the pets well and how they react to things.” Usually parking is fine, but it’s been more of a challenge this year with the construction. Kids who fly in will usually take SuperShuttle or have friends who pick them up.

 

When students get sick of campus and/or the water, there’s plenty to do off campus, and the school runs free shuttles off campus to various locations and runs buses downtown to First Friday every month.

© 2016

Pacific University

Pacific University (visited 7/15/13)

Pacific theater

Theater building

I was more impressed with Pacific than I thought I’d be. The campus is beautiful, and they’re clearly a student-centered institution. Two professors (David DeMoss, Dir of Arts and Humanites, and Sarah Phillips, Sociology professor) talked to us; both were engaging and personable. “I wanted to be somewhere where I could teach. I value the messiness of learning and the time spent sitting and talking with students,” said Dr. DeMoss. He went on to say that the Pacific kids were some of the kindest and most honest students he’s met; Dr. Phillips agreed.

Pacific library

Interior of the library

The school’s specialty is letting students pursue what they’re interested in and teach them what they need to know to be successful. For example, all pre-health students take an Intro to Health Professions class to help them figure out early if that’s really what they want (and a Career Component is 1 of 4 requirements that all students have to complete to graduate). Students who succeed are those who are willing to: 1) work. It’s not a cakewalk. If they’re not ready for hard work, this isn’t the place for them. 2) consider an alternative and are not “married to their prejudices.” They may leave with the same ideas, but they’ve had to think about them and choose them rather than just inheriting them. 3) get into extra-curricular activities right away. It’s ok to be quiet and shy but they have to be curious.

Pacific Univ CntrThey have a few programs worth noting: They offer a 3-3 law program with Case Western Reserve in Ohio; Exercise Science is big; the English department offers a track in Creative Writing as well as an Editing and Publishing minor; Philosophy has an Ethics, Society, and Law track; they offer an indigenous studies as well as a peace and social justice minor; they have an accredited Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and are working on getting a Music Therapy program within the next couple years; finally, they have an Applied Theater major which I’ve never heard of before.

PacificIn their first semester, every student takes a First Year Seminar which usually has humanities-based content with a serious academic college-level bent. This is a 4-credit class with 16-20 students (plus an upper-level student mentor) who all live on the same floor, meant to help get students involved in social life. Our tour guide’s favorite class was “Global Sociology of HIV/AIDS.” Classes average about 19 students with the largest classroom space on campus holding 85.

Pacific apts

Some of the newest apartments on campus

This is a largely residential campus of about 1600 undergraduates (they also have a sizable graduate population; they have the oldest – and one of only three – Optometry Graduate program on the west coast). Our tour guide didn’t like that the town isn’t so lively (although campus is), but said that there are good gown/town relations, and several places in town give discounts to the students. She goes to Portland maybe every 4-6 weeks; they can grab a on the corner by campus; the ride to the MAX line takes 15 minutes. From there, they can get downtown in less than 45 minutes (airport is about an hour); the trip costs $2.40 total. Pacific also has 4 zip cars which cost $60 a day to rent.

Pacific indoor turf

Indoor turf in Pacific’s gym

Pacific takes the Common App and it’s free to apply if they contact their admissions rep who waive the fee for them. Students need a 3.0 in prep classes and a 1000 CR&M SAT score or 21 ACT. Those who fall under these benchmarks go to a faculty Review Committee. There are several scholarships in areas like music and theater; students don’t have to major in these areas, but they do need to participate in ensembles, plays, etc. Pacific also holds a competition in February called Pace Setters in which students compete for more scholarship money. They get $2000 for competing, and can get up to $5000. If they matriculate, they get some of their travel money reimbursed. They also have a lot of support – financial and on-campus – for First Gen and low-income students.

Pacific street

One of the streets leading off campus with cafes and shops

Located halfway between Portland and the coast, Pacific was founded in 1849 along the Oregon Trail for children orphaned on the trail. There are several old, historic buildings, including a Carnegie Library. The Cuppola of one of the original buildings still has the bell in it; this is where students “sign, shake, and ring” during orientation and right before graduation, marking the start and end of their time at Pacific: they sign the book, shake the President’s hand, and ring the bell. Although there are older, historic buildings, they’ve also done a lot of building and updating: they have a new eco-friendly upper-division dorm, and they’re working on renovating one first-year dorm, and knocking down and rebuilding another one.

Pacific 2Pacific has a high percentage of Hawaiian (and more generally Pacific Islander) students. One of the major events that students mentioned looking forward to every year was the Luau that’s thrown every year. Sports are also relatively popular, and they have a lot of options, including Rugby as a club sport. Technically, Rugby is a men’s sport but since they don’t yet have a women’s team (they’re working on that), about four or five women will practice with them (but can’t yet compete). Students can take advantage of a lot of outdoor activities, much of which is organized through “Outback,” their outdoors activities group.

Pacific mascot

A picture of the original mascot

We learned some fun facts about their mascot, Boxer. In the 1920s, a group of students studied in China and brought back a Chinese statue for the university as a “thank you” for sending them. As a joke, people started stealing it and moving it around to random places on campus. This because a tradition to see who could steal and move it. Eventually, students named it Boxer after the Boxing Day Rebellion, and it stuck. Today, all that’s left is its tail and one leg; an alumnae had the leg in his attic and donated it back to the university.

(Another interesting bit of trivia is that Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist for Kiss, is on their Board.)

© 2013

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