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Stetson University

Stetson University (visited 2/10/16)

Stetson 3D equipment

3D printing equipment in the library

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

Stetson printed objects

Students’ printed objects

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

Stetson dorm lounge

A dorm lounge

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

Stetson library

The library

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

Stetson organ

The organ in the music school

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

Stetson bikes

Bikes are a favorite way to get around campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2016

Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University (visited 2/12/16)

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

J'ville Marine Sci Inst

Marine Science building

J'ville Marine lab

Tanks on the first floor of the Marine Science building.

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

 

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

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

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

    Nursing department

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

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

    The glass-blowing studio

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

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

The Advanced CRJ simulator

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

 

J'ville aviation bldg

Inside the Aviation building

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

J'ville outdoor work area

The outdoor working area with tables and electrical outlets

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

J'ville apts 2

Some of the apartment buildings for upperclassmen

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

J'ville golf practice

The golf practice area

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

J'ville art studio

One of the art studios

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

© 2016

University of Oregon

UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, Eugene, OR (Visited 7/18/13)

Quad

Quad

“Big nerds and sports fanatics can both fit in here,” said the admissions counselor, a 2010 alum. The University of Oregon is a flagship Public Research University; taking undergrad research so seriously is no small feat for a school their size. “Intellectually, it’s a game-changer.” Students do research in labs, on study abroad trips, and just about any other possible place (including an on-campus Cultural Museum in which Anthropology and Archaeology students do research). “Research allows students to find that spark, and that’s what we’re most interested in doing here. We want them to create knowledge, not just hear about it from others.”

UO 2 academic

Main Library

Main Library

I was half expecting UO to feel like other large, sprawling state universities, but it didn’t because of all its outdoor spaces and gardens. The campus is a federal arboretum with an arborist in charge of all the plants. School spirit/pride is high; for example, a lot of the dorm windows had O stickers in them. Athletics, of course, are a huge part of life here. Hayward Field, home of their Track and Field team, is famous because the Olympic trials are held here (which students can and do attend); they showed this off to us before any other facility. (As a side note, Animal House was filmed here). U of O is expanding their rec center, including adding a 16-lane pool, which a scheduled opening in the fall of 2015. Out of their 20,800 undergrads, just under 10,000 a day use their rec center (as compared to Ohio State: 6,000 of their 55,000 students use their rec center). An alum donated money towards the Jacqua Student Athlete Success Building for DI athletes. When we were shown this on the tour, a several eyebrows went up; the general feeling was, “Why are the athletes being treated so much better? What about academic success for non-athletes?” When we expressed this, the answer came in two parts: first, they don’t have control over what the alumni want to donate money for, and second, they do provide a lot of services to everyone; they’re just located in other spots on campus. “We’re well libraried,” said our tour guide (and interesting, the faces on the main library are major thinkers in the Canon).

UO pedestrian areaThe university prides itself on providing relevant and interesting academics within attractive buildings meant to inspire students and showcase the academic work being done in them. Allen Hall, for example, looks like one of the top PR firms in the country. The Willamette Science Center has a huge atrium that has integrated several aspects into the architecture that reflect science: quarks are shown in tiles on the floor, stars are reflected in lights across the ceiling, DNA strands wind around the staircase, the lampposts are designed after botanical structures, and there are cell structures around the walls. An additional science building will open this winter that will take on an interdisciplinary focus because “real world problems don’t get delivered as ‘chemistry’ or ‘biology.’” The physics has an Applied Physics program designed to help grads go directly into a job or move into a grad program.

Oregon is “Big enough to be good, small enough to be great,” says Roger Thompson, VP for Enrollment. It feels smaller than it is because of orientation and how students can interact with resources and faculty. Small classes help them define their interests and paths. “Secretly we believe that most students are undeclared at that age.” It’s ok to be undeclared, tentative, or to change their minds later, and the university offers 269 academic programs split between 7 schools:

Art Museum

Art Museum

  • The Arts and Sciences school has the state’s highest ranked programs in bio, chem, physics, math, poli sci, econ, psych, English, and history. The Center for Nanotechnology, the Oregon Institute for Marine Bio (only one in the pacific NW), and the Pine Ridge Observatory are worth noting. They’ve installed large electron microscopes which are bolted to the floor; companies that want to use them must come to campus; this actually gives undergraduates a chance to work with professionals. They do not have an engineering major; the tour guide said that their sciences tend to be more theoretical, but they do have a 3-2 engineering program with OSU.
  • Students interested in Business come into the pre-business program; to move to a full business major, they need a 3.0 in their classes at Oregon.
    • The school is fully accredited for both accounting and business. Fewer than 5% in the world are dually accredited.
    • They have the first and best sports business program (ranked by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, WSJ)
    • They run a Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Finance and Securities Analysis Center, Entrepreneurship, Sports Marketing Center.
    • Within the Journalism and Communication school, students come in as Pre-journalism majors and complete a Gateway to Media course cluster integrating multimedia storytelling and critical thinking. Once they meet the minimum GPA of 2.9, students are eligible for entry as full journalism majors. Two areas of note within this school are their Media in Ghana program and the Full-service student-run advertising firm
    • The College of Education is ranked in the top three public colleges of education in the US (the Special Education program is ranked 3rd in the nation). This is also the top funded education school for research per faculty member.
    • The Architecture and Allied Arts is 6th among public universities, in the Top 15 undergrad programs overall, and 1st in sustainable design practices and principles. They offer a BArch degree, a 5 year program requiring a portfolio for admission. The portfolio can be anything – ceramics, art, even creative writing. They are looking for higher grades and scores, but also analytical and aesthetic ability. The Art department offers media areas including ceramics, digital arts, jewelry and metalsmithing, and photo.
    • Like Architecture, the Music and Dance program requires additional admissions criteria. Oregon offers one of three comprehensive music programs on the west coast. There are thirty ensembles and over 200 music and dance events every year, and the university hosts the internationally recognized Oregon Bach Festival. They boast a 100% job placement for music education
    • The Honors College enrolls 220 new students every year (out of about 1500-1800 apps). The average GPA of students admitted into the program is 3.85, but there is no required minimum. They look for students with the spark, the initiative, the willingness to ask questions. If the students can prove through writing and teacher recs that they have these qualities, they’ll consider other GPAs. The 4-year curriculum is compatible with every major, and every CHC student researches, writes, and defends an honors thesis. Over 80% of CHC alums attend grad school within 3 years of graduation.

OSU quad 130 years ago, Oregon pioneered the concept of the Freshmen Interest Groups. Although students are not required to sign up for a FIG, they are strongly encouraged to do so; the university has found that those students who participate end up performing much better than those who do not. They put students into small, thematically grouped cohorts of 25. The classes, made up of 25 students grouped according to a common interest, satisfy a gen ed requirement. The classes fill up quickly, and they’re trying to increase opportunities.

About 35% of the university’s students come from outside of Oregon (and every state is represented); 10% of the students come from 70+ foreign countries. Almost 20% self-identify as students of color. Twelve percent of students join Greek life, so it’s available but not a major social force on campus. Much of the social activities are based out of the Union, a funky, unusual building that looks a bit like a labyrinth. It’s a multi-level building made of wood and concrete with old beams across the ceiling; it smells like old wood in a good way. The building has all the typical things people expect at a union: food, student groups, etc. They have an extensive outdoors club, and anyone can be trained to lead trips for this group. Residential life is comprised mostly of freshman: 90% of first-year students live on campus but that drops to about 7% of sophomores, 5% of juniors, 2% of seniors. There’s a ton of cheap housing in the area; our tour guide hasn’t lived more than 2 blocks away since she moved off campus. The university is trying to increase their numbers of non-freshmen on campus. They offer a variety of housing such as Living-Learning Communities, several of which have classrooms in the dorms. The Global Scholars Residence is an incredible new building that houses about 400 Honors and College Scholars students. The rooms are suites, there’s a beautiful dining facility on the first floor, and there are lots of meeting and lounge spaces in addition to having Faculty in residence.

© 2013

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