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Stevenson University

Stevenson University (visited 12/5/17)

Stevenson mustang

The Stevenson mascot

Stevenson is in the process of rebranding itself, and it seems to be doing an amazing job. The institution began as Villa Julie, a Catholic women’s college, but it’s been independent of the church since the ‘60s, coed since the early ‘70s, and changed its name in 2008 when it gained University status. The growth and ongoing changes are remarkable.

Stevenson shuttles

One of the shuttle buses waiting by some of the residence halls

The university has two campuses situated six miles apart northwest of Baltimore. “They have a totally different feel,” said one student. Another agreed: “There’s more nature there [Stevenson]. This one [Owings Mills] is more hussle-bussle.” Shuttles run every 30 minutes between the two, but all students can have cars, so it’s easy to drive over. The students agreed that parking was not a problem. However, Owings Mills (considered the main campus) is overhauling much of campus, including putting in a quad that will replace a large chunk of their main parking lot. This will go a long way in alleviating the predominant institutional feel when first driving on campus; their plan is to have this completed by the time return back to campus in January 2018.

Stevenson walkway

The new walkway connecting North to the main section of campus

The quad is just one example of the recent, rapid growth of both students and facilities. Buildings are modern and well equipped for what the students need to live and learn. Owings Mills has all the residence halls, the Business school, and more. The college just built a wooden walkway to connect the main part of campus to “North” Campus, officially Owings Mills Extension, where there is a new, massive (22,000 square feet) academic center housing the Design School (including fashion, film, graphic design), sciences and math, Business Communications, Marketing, PR, and more.

Stevenson Business

The Business School

Given the main campus growth, the President thinks that they’ll eventually consolidate: “It’s impractical to run 2 campuses.” The majority of classes are at OM. Although the Schools of humanities/social sciences and education are at the other campus, when people need a class (like psychology for nurses), it’s offered at OM. However, theaters, competition basketball and tennis facilities, and more are on the Stevenson campus. “Specialty equipment is harder to shift.” The master plan includes expanding the Southern part of the OM campus to make it the hub of student life, including athletic fields and more housing.

Stevenson res quad

The residence quad

About 2500 students live on campus, and students raved about the dorms. “There are no communal bathrooms,” one said. Even freshmen (85% of whom live on campus) live in 2-bedroom suites. Later, they can move into larger suites, suites with single bedrooms, or apartments. “About 75% of juniors who want them can get into the apartments,” one student told me. There are 6 on-campus and 16 off-campus dining options.

Stevenson diversityThere is excellent support here, particularly for first year students. Orientation gets rave reviews, and the optional Orientation Adventures (students go to Orioles games, Hershey Park, etc) program has grown rapidly. “They didn’t push it much when I started,” said a senior. “A lot more freshmen do it now.”

Stevenson Stu Cntr ext

Some outdoor seating by the Student Center; in good weather, this place is packed!

Additionally, they’ve changed 1st year advising: “by all measures, this is going extremely well,” said the Dean of Admissions. Students are assigned a Success Coach at orientation, and students must meet with them at least 4 times in the fall and 3 in the spring. “It’s intrusive advising;” each session has a particular purpose instead of a generic “how’s it going?” check-in. Students complete goal-setting activities and look at what they want their college experience to be. After the 1st year, students transfer to a more traditional faculty advisor, but are able to meet with success coaches whenever they want.

“Professors are my favorite thing about this place. They work outside the classroom. They have lives.” The students like that connection to the outside world, information about internships, etc. “One of my favorite classes was an Intro to Theater class. There were no theater majors in there, so the professor completely overhauled the syllabus to make it more relevant to us.”

The academics at Stevenson seem to be deliberately thought out; as they’ve overhauled the university, they’ve also innovated academic offerings to prepare students for graduate school (about 1/3 go on) or jobs. “We offer connection to careers within the liberal arts tradition.”

  • All students must complete a capstone experience. They even offer a Design-firm Capstone: students solve a problem for a community group such as working with a community center to design interactive programs for the kids. There are 40 Service-Learning classes where they work for a local non-profit.
  • Sales Management and Leadership is one of their more unusual majors. They encourage students to pair this with a minor that might correspond with their professional goals such as a minor in Chem for Pharmaceutical Sales.
  • Other unusual majors are: Visual Communication Design, Medical Laboratory Science, Public History, and Fashion Merchandising.
  • Professional Minors will be offered starting in 2018. Students take four interdisciplinary classes to build skills applicable to various job markets: Applied Management, Entrepreneurship/Small Business Development, Human Resources, Real Estate, Software Design and Coding.
  • Students can earn complete a 5-year BS/MS in 9 areas.
  • Sciences are strong: there has been an 87% acceptance rate into health-profession (med, dental, vet) schools over 5 years. Any interested student can apply; they don’t cut kids during pre-advising programs. Qualified students can do a 3+3 Pharmacy with UMD.
  • 100% of the students have been accepted to law schools; their Legal Studies major is ABA accredited. Students can complete a 3+3 with UBalt’s law school.
  • There are many music groups on campus and a music minor.
  • Film and Moving Image majors start to write and direct in their first year.

There are plenty of shops and restaurants are within walking distance, many physically surrounding campus. Given its location on the outskirts of Baltimore, there’s a myriad of other options as well, with Towson and Hunt Valley being popular. “We also go to Towson or Baltimore for parties,” said one student. There’s a metro stop on campus “but it’s mostly underground and we lose reception. I like knowing I can reach someone if there’s a problem so I don’t take it a lot, but it is convenient.” Often students will take the Light Rail from Hunt Valley if they’re heading into downtown Baltimore.

Stevenson stadium

The stadium and the athletic center which sit on the edge of campus.

Athletics are a big deal. Stevenson’s teams have had 30 NCAA championship appearances and 27 conference and national championships. Football, women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, and lacrosse all pull a large fan-base. They’re the first in the nation (and the northernmost?) to have a DIII Beach Volleyball team. All their club sports are professionally coached to give those students a solid athletic experience. A men’s club rugby team is in development, and they even have a Club E-sports (gaming) team!

The top 10% of admitted students are selected for Freshman Honors; there’s no way to apply separately for this program. There’s a new University Honors program in development for fall of 2019. The application for their largest scholarship, the Presidential Fellowship, is due 11/1. Students interested in general merit scholarship (up to $20,000 per year) must apply to Stevenson by 2/1; these are automatic consideration. There are several Specialty Scholarships (Leadership, Service, Art, Founders) scholarships that are stackable with other scholarships; these applications are due by 1/15. The invitation to apply to the Founders will be included with the acceptance letter.

© 2017

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

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