Mark Montgomery, expert educational consultant, goes to Eckerd College to speak about this unique school. With its own beachfront, sailing classes, pet-friendly policy and relatively small student body, Eckerd is sure to offer students an interesting college experience.
I’m here today on the campus of Eckerd College, which is located in St. Petersburg, Florida. They were really nice, they had a fly-in program for college counselors and they invited me to come down for a two-day visit. Fantastic place, really interesting time here.
A couple things you should know, one of the things I joke about sometimes with colleges everywhere is they need to have a climbing wall. It’s really important to have the certain kinds of amenities and behind me you can see the climbing wall here at Eckerd College. It’s outdoors. Not many places in the country can have the weather to be able to have their climbing wall outdoors, so they do have what’s required but they have it in a unique way.
Eckerd College is a liberal arts college located in St. Petersburg with a student body of about 1,800 students. Relatively small, intimate, beautiful, enormous campus. In fact, yesterday they had us riding around on their yellow bikes. They have a group of about 200 bicycles on campus that are sprinkled throughout, and kids can jump on them and ride from their dorm to their class to the beach. Oh, and that’s one of the most important, interesting things, significant differences about Eckerd College, is that it has its own beachfront. They call it South Beach, it’s wonderful. And they also have their own waterfront facility where you can rent, or not even rent, you can just pick up a kayak or a canoe or something and go out on Tampa Bay. Gorgeous, gorgeous location. Unique, I would say, in terms of its geographical setting. It’s really nice.
A couple of other things to know. Every college in America is concerned about ensuring that their students are successful while they’re here, when they get onto their campus. Eckerd has developed what they call their Autumn Term, which is a three-week class for students as they’re coming in as freshmen that everyone is required to take, everyone takes the same class which is a class on the Human Experience. And at the same time, they also have a whole bunch of events to help orient students and to get them involved and engaged in the community, and really show them what kinds of resources exist on this campus, both physical and human, and to be able to take the best advantage of that while they’re here. They have trips into St. Petersburg, into Tampa, to introduce them to the community there. You could take a beginner wakeboarding lesson, or go kayaking, or sailing is one of the big teams that they have here at Eckerd, is a sailing team. Whatever, whatever it is that the student wants to get involved in, the campus really draws them into the community so that the students can really take advantage from day 1 of the resources that this campus provides.
Another quirky, interesting fact about Eckerd is that it is the first campus to have an official policy to be pet-friendly. And about 30% of the dormitory space here at Eckerd is pet-friendly. So students can have their own pets as long as they’re under 40 pounds. So guinea pigs, definitely no problem, rabbits, but also small dogs, cats, can come onto campus with students and there’s a dog park, there’s an actual office of, I forget what it is, it’s like the pet office, I forget what the name of it is, that actually helps students to care for their pets, gives them certain kinds of medications; it’s a very well-developed and interesting trend on American campuses but it started here at Eckerd.
And academically, I think I would say that it has all of the strengths of a liberal arts college, where we sat with faculty, met with them, and were able to talk to them about the benefits of this kind of an education. And every single one of them was talking about that relationship. And because of the relationship, and because there are really no graduate students here, the students have amazing opportunities for research with faculty members. I sat next to a chemistry professor at lunch, and he was talking about his lab and the kinds of grants that he gets funded here to fund his research, and he has undergraduates who are first and second authors on some of his scientific papers, and he’s happy to do that because the students really have taken the lead in that, and they get the training so that they can actually produce that kind of research that will then get them into graduate school. On graduate school, also, we’ve been talking about the 3-2 program, which is a 3-2 engineering program. Often, liberal arts colleges have these with, say, Columbia University or Washington University St. Louis. Every year, students go from Eckerd to those programs. It’s not just an on-paper thing, it is a thing that students take advantage of.
So long story short, I came away with a really great impression of this place. Like many other campuses it’s all about the community, and Eckerd clearly has a very strong community. So if you’re looking for that kind of personalized education, this is a great place to consider.