An ethos of service

The really brief version:

Stetson University is a small liberal arts and sciences school between Orlando and Daytona Beach, Florida. The most striking thing about it to me is its public service ethos, which comes across in the school’s literature and in Fiske, but which I found to be even more pronounced when I visited, possibly because my tour guide was a Bonner Scholar, which means she has to be actively engaged in community service. The student newsmagazine pointed out two weak areas that aren’t mentioned in the promotional materials: an ineffective student government and an overcrowded housing situation. The dorm we were shown on the tour was small and musty. The town of DeLand is supposedly adorable, but the road I drove in on was pretty sketchy. Volusia County has a large homeless population, evident on the path I took.

Stetson requires all freshman to take the First-Year Seminar, which matches students with a faculty mentor. The core curriculum includes four “writing intensives,” no matter the major, and the Junior Seminar, which focuses on personal and social responsibility. The campus is LGBTQ-friendly and has a walk-in wellness center with mental health counseling. My overall opinion of Stetson as compared to the literature? The literature is pretty accurate, but students should pay special attention to the housing if they plan to attend. Some dorms are more desirable than others, and it seems the housing shortage fell on the male population last year.

I visited Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, between Orlando and Daytona Beach, in early August, so school was not in session. I joined a family for the walking tour; the younger sister was considering Stetson and the older sister was a rising senior there. A professor from Stetson Law met up with us because she and the mother were friends. Although school wasn’t in session, the rising senior was happy to answer my questions, and the tour guide was a Bonner Scholar who had a double major of Spanish and communications.

Stetson has about 3,000 undergraduates, only 800 of whom come from out of state. Stetson offers $1,000 for out-of-state students their first year. The following description, listed in GuidedPath, is excerpted here, with my comments in brackets and bold:

College Synopsis from GuidedPath

According to the school, Stetson University is a top-ranked, private, comprehensive university comprised of a rich array of undergraduate programs in science, health, music and traditional liberal arts as well as professional academic and graduate programs. Stetson’s mission is to provide a creative community where learning and values meet and is dedicated to helping students go beyond expectations in life, careers, and graduate study….

The university offers all first-time-in-college incoming students the chance to participate in The Stetson Promise, a guarantee that each student will receive a four-year graduation plan, experiential learning opportunities and experience great academic programs…. Examples of Stetson’s broad experiential learning opportunities include the Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) grants, where students complete a summer research project while receiving a stipend. The College of Arts and Sciences requires students to complete a research project prior to graduation, while students in the School of Music must complete a series of public performances. In the School of Business students are required to participate in experiential learning to graduate…. In all these programs, Stetson is committed to the traditions and benefits of a liberal learning education, and the integration of values in the teaching-learning process. [I’m not quite sure what this means. What values?]… The university takes its commitment to the local community seriously …. [This was very clear to me from the tour and my talk with admissions. Although DeLand is supposedly a “best U.S. town,” driving in from an unusual route (I got lost), I felt a bit unsafe, though the kids said they always felt safe. Volusia County has problems of homelessness and illiteracy; in fact, my bilingual tour guide tutored English as a second language to adults.]

The university is affiliated with the Bonner Scholars program, which provides scholarships to approximately 60 undergraduate students who actively and consistently engage in community service. Sustainability and green design are important to the university …. Stetson’s newest completed construction projects are the renovation and modernization of the Carlton Union Building, hub to student life and food services, and the recently opened Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, home to research facilities, the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience [I want to find out more about this! We need water and environmental resilience!] and the university’s men’s and women’s rowing teams. Currently Stetson is in the planning stages for a new science and health building.


Excerpts from the Fiske guide. My comments are in brackets and bold:

Stetson University, named for the maker of the famed 10-gallon hat, draws students from around the Southeast with its small size and emphasis on the liberal arts. … Stetson’s 170-acre campus features mainly brick structures …. [Definitely a pretty campus, though the freshman dorm smelled musty. Tour guide said that disappears with A/C, but I wonder. I picked up Stetson’s student newsmagazine and found an article criticizing the administration because there weren’t enough dorm rooms for males. Students must live on campus through their junior year, as calculated by number of credits.] Recent construction projects include an $8 million Welcome Center and a major renovation and expansion of the Carlton Union Building, home to dining services and student activities. [The Welcome Center was gorgeous and high-tech. The student activities were numerous and overlooked the dining hall, which was closed. I did notice that the grounds were being groomed meticulously in preparation for students’ return.]

The admission rep emphasized the factors listed in following paragraph from Fiske, and these factors are the ones that make Stetson so appealing to me:

Stetson has three undergraduate colleges…and its general education requirements apply to all of them. All entering students take a First Year Seminar, which allows them to work closely with Stetson faculty to ease the transition to college. All freshmen who are undecided on a major participate in the Discovery program, and all students take a Junior Seminar that focuses on personal and social responsibility.. . . Additionally, all students must pass four writing-enhanced courses in order to graduate. [I love the seminar and faculty mentor, but I’ve seen similar programs at other small schools, like Eckerd. Hooray for writing-enhanced courses! I’m not aware of any other schools with a junior seminar focusing on “personal and social responsibility.” This fits Stetson’s service ethos.]

Stetson is known for its business program …. The most popular majors are psychology, finance, health sciences, and accounting. The education department has received national acclaim for its research on single-gender classrooms and their impact on performance in public schools. Stetson’s music school is notable…. Aspiring lawyers may take advantage of 3+3 or 4+3 B.A./J.D. programs with Stetson’s College of Law….

Of the academic climate, a business major says, “Stetson is a place that understands that to compete at the highest level, you must work together.” Sixty percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, and group work is common in many disciplines. Professors are always willing to help, and many have worked in the field they are teaching before stepping in front of the lectern….

Students with wanderlust can choose from more than 100 faculty-led, exchange, or affiliate programs, and international internships are an option too; 28 percent of undergrads study abroad. Stetson’s honors program incorporates international study, community service, and a senior colloquium, and also allows students to create their own majors….

Sixty-five percent of Stetson Hatters are native Floridians; they tend to be white, wealthy, and friendly, a sociology major says…, [but] 31 percent … are Pell-eligible. Students describe a mix of political views on campus and say concerns about the transparency of the university’s administration tend to spark student activism. [The student newsmagazine had an article critical of the Student Government Association as being aimless and ineffective.]

About two-thirds of undergrads live in the residence halls, since they’re required to do so through junior year. Accommodations in the residence halls, all of which have been upgraded in recent years, are said to have significantly improved, but a junior warns, “Because of the rising enrollment, the university has faced an issue of overcrowding, making housing a difficult situation.” [This was the issue addressed in the student publication.]

…. Fraternities attract 30 percent of the men and sororities draw 35 percent of the women, but students say that tightened alcohol policies have pushed most partying off campus to nearby apartments or bars. [The student who was on the tour with her sister said that she didn’t want to join a sorority but nonetheless had an active social life.]

The Council for Student Activities offers plenty of on-campus alternatives, bringing in big-name acts, and students also get involved in the more than 140 student organizations. … Three-quarters of students participate in volunteer activities, often through service-learning courses. [As I mentioned earlier, service is definitely part of Stetson’s ethos.]

Stetson’s teams compete in Division I…. The Hollis Wellness Center offers a variety of fitness facilities, and about a third of students participate in club and intramural sports….

Stetson students savor the one-on-one attention freely given at this small Sunshine State university with a strong sense of what it is. After four years spent enjoying great weather and forming close friendships with peers and professors, they emerge with solid academic foundations for future work or study….

Counselor’s packet

Numbers: 89% employed or continuing education after graduation; tuition and fees plus housing and meals $56K; average out-of-pocket to families $29K to $17K

Stetson U. in DeLand, FL