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Stevenson University, Take 2

Stevenson University (visited 4/26/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my first visit on 12/5/17)

Stevenson has come a long way since it changed over from Villa Julie College in 2008. Campus has been transformed even since I last visited a little over a year ago. The biggest change is that they’ve created a large green space in front of their main buildings where there had been a parking lot, making it feel more like a traditional campus rather than a commuter space. They will break ground in July 2019 on a new theater and library complex located across from the School of Design; this should take about 15 months to complete. They’re also putting in a new entrance on the north side of campus.

They’ve done a great job increasing diversity on campus. About 42% of the 3,200 undergrads self-identify as a racial or ethnic minority. I’m a little concerned about their current graduation rate, but they are actively addressing that. Their Office of Student Success provides success coaches, service learning, and more. All majors provide opportunities for internships, research, or capstone experiences (but they don’t seem to be required at this point, only encouraged/ available). My tour guide was in the Fashion Merchandizing program and had worked with Boscov’s for visual merchandising as part of a class. Students have access to professors since the average class size is 17 and there are no lecture halls on campus, so classes can’t ever be large.

There are a lot of international trips associated with classes which is a great opportunity for students. Some examples include an Herbal Remedies trip to Ecuador and Math and Art in Spain.

Academically, they’re being deliberate in helping students get hands-on experience, fast-track/accelerated Masters degrees, or providing majors that keep up with the times. They’re starting CyberSecurity & Digital Forensics and biomedical engineering majors. Many majors have tracks within them to help students focus on interests. There a number of Professional Minors such as Real Estate, Software Design and Coding, and Human Resources: these are designed to be paired with a major or another minor and developed to give student an edge in the job search. Qualified students can do a Bachelor to Masters in as little as 5 years: students can decide if they want to pursue this while at Stevenson and apply during junior year; in senior year, classes double-count for the 2 degrees.

Another way they’re increasing retention and graduation rates are through their multiple Scholars Programs. These are cohort-based programs that blend curricular and co-curricular programming. They are housed in a Living Learning Community, get priority registration for required classes, and have access to tailored curricular and co-curricular programs. Participants meet the qualifications for merit-based aid.

  • Service Scholars: this is geared to students interested in giving back and working with the greater Baltimore community and beyond. This program is only 3 years old but is the oldest of the Scholars Programs. Students become eligible for the President of the US Volunteer Service award.
  • Leadership Scholars help students develop as motivators and leaders. They attend seminars, TedX on campus, and more, including specialized programming through the Office of Career Services.
  • Honors: This is geared towards problem-solving, collaborative learners. They participate in a 4-year curriculum, take only 2 extra classes beyond the traditional GenEd/major requirements. These are smaller-than-average classes with a cross-disciplinary focus specially designed for the honors program. The students are selected by the admissions office and notified upon their acceptance to the university. Typically, students selected for this are in the top 10% of the incoming class with an average SAT of 1300 and unweighted school-reported GPA of 3.8.

Their Presidential Fellowship is an awesome opportunity – they receive about 250 apps. From those, they select 50 finalists to come to campus. Ten are named as Fellows getting full tuition for 4 years. Anyone interested must apply by the11/1 deadline in order to be considered.

© 2019

 

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

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