campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “Marine Science”

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

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

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

University of South Carolina

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA (visited 4/4/14)

~USC fountainUSC had one of the best organized visit programs I’ve seen; in a way, it has to be with the numbers of people visiting. They had an individualized welcome packet for each person, info sessions in two areas to make it feel less impersonal, and tour guides with a list of people assigned to their tour, partially based on region so they could talk to a student as close to home as possible. My tour guide, a PoliSci and Journalism double major from Burlington, NC, transferred here after freshman year because she wanted a big town feel and liked the idea of being in a capitol city for the political science opportunities. She feels like she has plenty of opportunities for education and recreation; off campus, she likes to go to 5 Points which is like their version of College Town.

~USC flowers 2~USC bikes 2Almost 2/3 of USC’s 20,000 students are from in-state, but they attract students from all states and more than 100 countries. NC, VA, MD, GA, and NJ are the most highly represented states outside of SC. Campus is breathtaking; the central campus has trees, bushes, and flowers everywhere, and students were out enjoying the quad. Although there are major roads surrounding campus, this is very much a pedestrian campus. All students can have cars, and there are garages available which alleviates parking issues and helps maintain the beauty of campus. Campus is highly walkable, and people walking in groups and socializing, but there is a campus shuttle for those who want it. It’s also very safe; the only time our tour guide had heard of anyone using the blue light was when someone who was allergic was stung by a bee and needed an epi-pen.

~USC hammocksQualified students wanting more of an academic challenge can participate in one of two “challenges”: the Capstone Scholars, a two-year program to which applicants are given automatic consideration. The scholars live together in one of the largest residence halls, located in the Humanities area of campus; it looks a little like a “spaceship” which also has a revolving restaurant on the top floor (the only one in SC). They take special classes and take a trip abroad every May (last year it was to Iceland; this year it’s Greece). It is possible to transfer into the Honors Program afterwards. The other option is the Honors College which has been ranked as #1 in the nation. This is a four-year program and is highly competitive, requiring an additional application consisting of six essays and two letters of recommendation. Classes are much smaller; students get priority registration as well as other benefits.

Museum

Museum

Students wanting an “Early Answer” (their version of Early Action) must submit their application AND have all test scores and transcripts in by October 15. They’ll take the highest composite for ACT and superscore the SAT. To be considered for the Capstone or Honors and for scholarships, applications must be in November 15. Scholarships are given to approximately 1/3 of students and are awarded based on GPA and test scores. Since the applicant pool changes every year, they don’t have specific GPA or score cut-offs. Notifications are sent out after 2/1 when the see the complete application pool. Their application includes an “Optional Personal Statement.” The rep said, “Use it!! Here’s an Insider Tip: Tell your story! Brag on yourself a bit. We’re holistic; we want to admit a well-rounded person.”

~USC quad 4Students tend to continue being well-rounded and involved once they get on campus. Last year, students completed 472,152 service hours and raised $1.3million for charity. 1100 students studied abroad last year in 50 countries. All freshmen must live on campus; housing options include 17 Living-Learning Community as well as more traditional dorms. There are 22 dining options in 13 buildings (and they brought us into one of the traditional dining halls about halfway through campus and let us get drinks). About 20% of the students are involved in one of the 40 fraternities and sororities on campus, and housing is available in the Greek Village. They have 400 organizations and an active performing arts community (their theater was used as a Civil War Morgue; theater students do a haunted tour in there every Halloween). Gamecock Pride is huge. Many people participate in sports, and many more go out to support the athletes at games.

They m~USC observatoryake admissions decisions without taking a declared major into consideration, so no major is capped. Students complete a Common Core in first two years so it’s easy to change major or double major. Of the 95 majors, some of the more unusual or noteworthy include:

  • Arts & Sciences: Criminology, Marine Science, Religious Studies
  • Business. International Business #1 in the country for 16 years straight
  • Mass Communication: Journalism is most comprehensive of its kind, including Print, broadcast, and more
  • Engineering and Computing: undergrads can minor in Aerospace Engineering (and stay for a Masters)
  • Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. Students complete internships at places like Gucci, the NFL, Marriott, Verizon, and the Olympics.
  • Health Sciences: They offer a 6-year PharmD as well as Nursing which is competitive: students are admitted to lower division of nursing and start clinicals in first two years.

~USC theaterOnly 3% of classes have more than 150 students; 75% have fewer than 40. Our tour guide’s classes have ranged from 19-200. Her favorite class so far has been her Environmental Studies class. She liked the practical nature of the education, such as when they walked around campus at night to study the university’s energy usage and see what might be improved. She also loved her National Parks elective because it was so unusual.

The USC campus also houses the National Advocacy Center which trains 15,000 judges, lawyers, and others in the legal profession every year.

© 2014

Coastal Carolina University

COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY (visited 4/5/14)

~Coastal arch~Coastal 2Coastal is a beautiful campus located 20 minutes from Myrtle Beach. Someone said that he had always perceived it as “an extension of a community college.” I think this might have been more accurate in the past; I don’t think this holds up anymore. There has been extensive growth and it’s become more selective in recent years. Started as a branch campus of USC in 1954 with only 150 students, it’s now the fastest growing comprehensive public university in SC with 9,500 students. It’s been listed as a 100 Best College Buys school, placed on Forbes America’s Top Colleges 3 years in a row, ranked in top 15% of 4-year schools, and was named as a College of Distinction (based on engaged students, performance after they leave, faculty commitment, and more) in both 2012 and 2013.

~Coastal fountainThe school has been conducting Exit Surveys for several years and have found that students love Coastal because of:

  • The 70+ Academic Programs. The most unique are: Marine Science, Musical Theater (BFA), Exercise and Sport Science, Intelligence and National Security (faculty are former CIA and FBI), Professional Golf Management or Resort Management (within the Business Program), and Nationally Accredited Teaching Degrees.
  • The Small Classes. Freshmen level classes average 30-35, and there’s no room on campus that can seat more than 125. Of the students I spoke to, the smallest classes were: 4 (Education) and 7 (Business law); the largest were 93 (Intro to Bio) and 60 (Marine Science). “Even in my biggest class, the professor got to know us. She took roll every morning and had extra office hours so we could talk to her.”
  • The Location. Great weather, great internships (especially for Resort or Golf management and Marine Science), and great access to Myrtle Beach. Students love the stuff to do around town, including the research and networking opportunities and the internships. Coast owns Waites Island (a 1000 acre barrier island with no public access) and Coastal Explorer (a research vessel).
  • On-Campus opportunities. In addition to all sorts of usual things that many campuses have, they have a recording studio accessible to anyone. Big-name acts come, including yearly performances by the Carolina ballet. They host weekly a Farmer’s Market which outgrew the small area in front of the admissions center, and has moved to a larger quad.
  • The Tuition. In-State is $17,810, Out-Of-State is $30,820. The in-state tour guide that I spoke to said, “I’m pretty happy with my tuition.” I think that’s a first! Students are automatically considered for scholarships (In-state ranges from $1,000-$6,000; out-of-state ranges from $6,000-$11,000.)

~Coastal clock towerBefore the tour, I spoke to several of the tour guides who were there to help direct the flow of students:

  • One was a Marine Science major from Ohio. He picked Coastal because of the major and proximity to the ocean. He’s getting a hands-on education and is doing an internship at the aquarium. He’s looking to get a job there and wants to do marine Veterinary work. He also scubas with sharks!
  • Library

    Library

    Another was an Elementary Education major. She loves that this is one of the top 3 programs in her field. She’s a junior and is already completing her 2nd placement. She transferred in from another school because this was closer to home, her sister was here, and she liked the program.

  • The third was a senior Business Major from DC. He learned about Coastal from a guidance counselor and like what he learned about it. He’s had a chance to get highly involved in campus life and even started a Latino fraternity.
  • Another student was a Marketing major from NJ. He came here as a back-up option. “I was on the athletic track, but busted my knee senior year. I came with the idea that I would transfer, but I fell in love with it.” The only thing he didn’t rave about was the dining hall: “It’s ok; it’s pretty typical for a college.”
  • The last student I spoke with was an Education major from SC. “Dorms are an 8. Dining hall is a 6; grab-and-go options are an 8.”

~Coastal 4Food seemed to be the one thing that students didn’t love. When I asked them if there was a meal that everyone loved, two tour guides said, “Fried Chicken Friday!” in unison. Another tour guide later also referenced this. “That’s the only day that there’s a line for food!” Other than food, no one could really think of anything to do to improve. “Anything we want, they’re doing already – 3 new academic buildings, additions to the library, new dorms, etc.” One of the reps said, “The students would say parking. We don’t really have a parking problem. We have a walking problem.”

(c) 2013

Richard Stockton University

RICHARD STOCKTON UNIVERSITY OF NJ (visited 7/30/13)

RS academics

One of the main academic complexes

John Iacovelli, the Dean of Enrollment Management, welcomed us to campus and spoke extensively about the growth the college, both the physical plant and enrollment. The freshman class is now about 200 students larger than even a few years ago. They have a new “Academic Spine” building (a long building with wings coming off of it which house different departments) and a new Unified Science Center which was getting the finishing touches put on it when we toured; although there was still a lot of last-minute construction, painting, and set-up to finish, the place was beautiful with 9 labs, 12 research spaces, offices, and conference rooms. They place a big emphasis on the sciences here; 25% of science majors from the 8 public colleges in NJ graduate from here. The Health Sciences are strong with competitive PT and OT programs, and they’re a year away from Physician’s Assistant program (the first class will come in next year) in conjunction with Philadelphia University. They also have strong Marine Science, Environmental Science, and a field station. However, they are a comprehensive institution; since 2/3 of students nationwide change their major at least once before getting a Bachelor’s, Stockton is ready and able to help guide students and to provide options in finding an appropriate major.

RS student center

The main lobby of the student center

Their new Campus Center opened in 2010. The first floor is spacious and open with fireplaces, artwork, and comfortable seating areas and charging stations everywhere. The Student Center side, aka the “Fun Side,” has lounges, a game room (where all the games are free, including old-school style game tables with pac-man and other games) and more. A fast-food court with Johnny Rockets-to-go, Chik-fil-A, subs, pizza, and more has seating for 400 students in the basement. The second floor has all the Student Activities offices, including lockers and small offices for each club. Large-scale programing doesn’t just run evening or weekend activities because they want the commuter students to be included.

Stockton brought in 1000 first-year students last year, 255 of whom self-reported as minority. However, they have almost NO out-of-state students! I heard different people say they had anywhere from 1-4% of their students come from outside of NJ. They are one of two schools in the state that froze tuition last year, and it also has one of the best merit-based scholarship systems in the state. The website lists very clear criteria for 3 of the 4 scholarships: if students hit the criteria, they get the scholarship. The last scholarship, the Stockton Scholar, has some wiggle-room in awarding it and is based on a more holistic review.

RS lake

The lake in the middle of the Stockton campus. Dorms are on the far side.

Much of the campus and surrounding areas is wooded and there is a lot of room for growth. The campus sits on about 1600 acres which includes two lakes and two hospitals. One of the lakes, Lake Fred, has a 1 mile trail around it linking the main campus to 3 housing units on the far side. Housing 1 has suites for sophomores. Housing 4 is also comprised of suites which are “more homey” according to the tour guide (and students do not need to be on a meal plan if they live here). Housing 5 has the newest buildings with single rooms and a kitchenette. There’s not a full kitchen so students need a meal plan. Housing is guaranteed for the first 2 years, and most buildings are coed by floor. 60% of freshmen live on campus. I was NOT impressed with the dorm they took us into: it smelled moldy and did not feel clean. The rooms were so small that the beds had to be bunked; there was not room to have them separated.

RS lake and path

The path around the lake to the dorms.

However, they’ve recently added 200 beds to their housing options with the purchase of the Seaview Hotel and Resort a couple miles away from the main campus. Partly because of this addition, their Hospitality and Tourism Management program is huge. The resort includes a golf course, and students get hands-on experience with several aspects of the tourism sector, including gambling because of their proximity to Atlantic City. Cornell University has partnered with Stockton since the Cornell students don’t have access to the gambling industry in NY. Cornell students can spend a semester studying at Stockton; Stockton students, in exchange, can earn direct entry into the Masters Program at Cornell if they meet certain standards. Students can also opt to live in the Living Learning Community housed in one wing of the hotel; they eat at the hotel, have access to the pool, and have other perks related to being there; the down-side is that they are removed from the convenience of all the activities on the main campus (although they certainly take advantage of these things; they just have to commute over).

RS academics 2Despite the wooded feel, this is not an isolated community. The town has a lot to do, and they’re right near the ocean (and also have some campus-owned, off-campus housing right on the beach!). They do the NSSE and CLE “Cultural Assessment” to get feedback from students and have earned high marks on both. There’s a NJ transit stop on campus with buses to Atlantic City, NY, and Philadelphia. Students can have cars on campus. Parking is free, and they’re planning a new parking garage. There are solar panels over the parking spots. There are 18 DIII sports including a new women’s lacrosse program, and they have a hockey rink on campus. Several teams have won championships.

© 2013

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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