Florida College Tour
Florida boasts a number of liberal arts colleges, universities and a renowned art school. Here are highlights from my recent visit.
Walking through the University of Miami campus among the palm trees, lake and outdoor pool, it is easy to forget that you are not at a resort but at a serious institution of learning. A private university with 10,000 undergraduates, Miami has top programs in marine science, health sciences, communications, business and music. The highly competitive dual-degree program in medicine ensures students a place in medical school after three years of strong undergraduate performance. PRISM is an integrated science program with a research emphasis leading to an MD or PhD. The Da Vinci program allows students with multiple interests to pursue a combination of topics that fall between majors and areas of knowledge such as health care and economics or physics and philosophy.
Miami has opportunities and social experiences for many types of students. Greek life draws 25% of students. Although there are houses for most of the fraternities (and they host parties), the sororities have suites for activities in the Panhellenic building on campus. Greek life does not dominate the social scene as many students prefer other campus activities or the draw of the city of Miami. However, for those involved in Greek life, it keeps them busy with a range of social and service activities. Miami Hurricane fans find plenty to cheer about in a sea of orange and green at football games. There is interest in social activism and political issues as well as many service opportunities. With a new vice president of enrollment management overseeing admissions, prospective students should expect demonstrated interest to play a more prominent role in admissions decisions this coming year and should plan to visit campus where possible.
University of Tampa
Applications have doubled at the University of Tampa in the past four years and a visit to the vibrant campus explained why. There is a new multipurpose high rise with residential floors including an honors college and meeting spaces. The AACSB-accredited business program is housed in a state-of-the art-facility with collaborative meeting spaces, classrooms and pitch rooms where students have successfully sold ideas to companies such as Starbucks as well as developing their own ventures. Tampa business students have recently won the international student investment competition against top universities from all over the world.
Tampa offers a wide range of majors including a direct entry-nursing program, film and media arts and forensic science. The new cyber-security major emphasizes an understanding of the entire business enterprise and a foundation in ethics. It is purposely housed in the business school instead of computer science. “Businesses get attacked, not IT departments,” said Professor Maurer who runs the program.
The city of Tampa provides many internship opportunities for students across majors. With beaches nearby, and an active student life on campus, including a small Greek system, and a cost of under $40,000 before any financial or merit aid awards, Tampa is worth a look.
If you’re seeking a strong liberal arts education in a small setting and are a beach lover, consider Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. It has top-notch programs in Marine Science and creative writing—author Dennis Lehane is an alumnus and he occasionally teaches a course. Other notable programs include international business, environmental studies and international relations. A new science facility offers the latest equipment for research and spacious meeting and classroom spaces.
Eckerd offers strong advising including a freshman seminar to orient students to the academic demands of college. Freshmen arrive early to campus for a three-week orientation that includes an academic course. One advantage is that the first-year students get the waterfront to themselves. Eckerd is second only to Disney in the number of sailboats it offers. In addition to watersports, scuba, kayaking and moonlight water trips, Eckerd students (86% are from outside of Florida) are involved in intramural sports, service, and social and political activism, while enjoying all that the city of St. Petersburg offers.
Ringling College of Art and Design
Ringling College of Art and Design’s president says it is ”shattering the myth of starving artists” as evidenced by its hundreds of alumni who are creating animated films and games at studios such as Lucas, Pixar, and Disney. Movie posters from every major animated film of the past decade line the walls of the Ringling animation building, representing work of its many graduates. Computer animators conceive of stories and conceive of characters and their movement much like a puppeteer, while also coding and applying math concepts as part of their creations. Illustration is the largest major at Ringling. There is a new business of art and design major that requires arts expertise, which is critical since in creative businesses the artistic side of the house often doesn’t get along with the business side. The idea behind this major is to train students who can build a bridge within the organization. Other majors offered include design, film and creative writing to name a few.
Admission to Ringling is competitive and a portfolio is required. Prospective students should keep in touch with their admissions representative and share portfolio pieces and get feedback along the way in addition to attending national portfolio days. The social life is low-key with students going to the beach, dining out in Sarasota, and getting together in small social groups. People work very hard here. If you are a serious art student, check out Ringling’s many art majors and opportunities.