Universities get bad press. Commonly used adjectives like huge, impersonal, cold, and diverse bring visions of mobs of students pushing into large classrooms baaing like sheep waiting to be sheared, in an environment where, as the song goes, "Nobody knows your name."
None of these common adjectives describe something innately wrong. Diversity is a great thing in a place where we want lots of options. Huge is a good thing when it describes the size of something we like. Who complains about a huge piece of chocolate cake? Some like the cold, and when a degree of anonymity allows us to try something new in a nonjudgmental environment, it can be wonderfully liberating.
Because the College is the biggest single academic unit in a huge university and recognizes the image those facts convey, it gives a lot of attention to personalizing the educational experiences of its students. Here are two of the most recent programs aimed at increasing students' satisfaction with their academic home.
Direct Admits ProgramOne size doesn't fit all. Not all students come to the university to find their future; some students already know what they want to do and have the roadmap firmly in mind. They want immediate contact with faculty in their chosen fields, they want their advising to come from the chosen department, they want to know other students who are similarly focused on their own goals.
The College, a unit large and diverse enough to respond, recognized this need and offered students admission directly into the College of Arts and Sciences if they had minimum combined SAT scores of 1330, graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class, and knew what they wanted to choose as a major. These "direct admits" went immediately to their chosen departments, where they were assigned a faculty mentor and an adviser. Many departments also offered them special seminars, research possibilities, even breakfast with the chair of the department.
Dean Kumble R. Subbaswamy serves up late-night snacks and tutoring.
Prospective direct admits found that the College can be a small world indeed. Students from their prospective departments called to urge them to choose IU, the adviser called them, and often a faculty member did too.
Of the grand total of 144 students (the target for the first year was 100) who said "yes" - 76 in-state students and 68 out-of-state students, including 18 valedictorians - 118 are signed up for fall. All direct admits have an average class rank in the top 6 percent of their graduating classes and average combined SAT scores of 1370.
We're going to hear more from them in the future, and next year when the number of direct admits is doubled, larger should be synonymous with better.
Food for ThoughtWait a minute. It's only the first night of final exam week, too soon to be hallucinating from lack of sleep. But then why are the dean of the College and assorted faculty and staff in the library lobby at 10 p.m., wearing red aprons that state in bold white print, "The College of Arts and Sciences Serving You"? It must be a dream; they are handing out food to all comers. Spinach might be Popeye's choice, but cold cuts and other snacks gave students the fuel to stamp out a little more ignorance. Several students even took advantage of instant, on-the-spot tutoring from Swamy, a professor of physics. Will "Food for Thought" become an end-of-semester tradition? We wouldn't be surprised.
OFF THE WEB
Take a tour of the IU Bloomington campus. Just go to www.iub.edu/tour/
Note that stop No. 2 on the tour is Kirkwood Hall, home of the College. How many of the campus sites/sights do you recognize?
Although the Web site is "under construction," information about the project and photos of the acreage are available.