Graduate News – Feb. 10, 2002

A Fresh Face on Graduate Concerns

Christel Mohr, a 23-year-old MBA student in the College of Business, is FAU’s new Grants Coordinator in the Agency for Graduate Concerns (AGC). An FAU student since August last year, Mohr is hoping to finish her degree in 18 months, but in the meantime she’s dividing her time between her studies and helping her fellow students. After 6 months she is aware of the importance of her new job, and the need for an agency such as the AGC. “As grads we need something like AGC to deal with questions, concerns and provide help.”

She applied for the position because she wanted a part-time job, to get involved and to help graduate students. She was one of a large number of applicants hoping to secure the graduate assistantship, which provides both a stipend and a tuition waiver. She hopes her time at FAU will help carry her towards her eventual goal – working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Mohr, originally from Coral Springs, graduated from the University of Florida last summer with her bachelor’s degree in international business. She has noticed some differences since coming to FAU with its multiple campuses, night classes and an older student population. Involvement on campus is more difficult. With everyone living in different locations and with different work schedules, Mohr has found it harder to organize and arrange to meet with groups for her MBA work. Her perceptions mirror those of many students attending FAU. Far from being a traditional, campus based university like UF, FAU is scattered across a number of campuses, stretched over a hundred miles. Most graduate students work off campus, and many also have family commitments as well as their scholastic ones. FAU is certainly a far cry from a single central campus in a relatively small college town.

While she was involved with a number of student clubs and honor societies as an undergraduate, her new position will be her first time working with a student government agency. Her list of service activities include mentoring as well as coaching basketball and soccer.

She says that so far she’s enjoying the position, she’s been to FAU‘s various campuses and is getting used to their differences, their administrations and their students. She seems optimistic about her position and seems to be settling into the swing of things at Graduate Concerns Office.

As well as her work with Graduate Concerns, Mohr is the new Vice President for the MBA association, one of a number of graduate clubs that now exist at FAU. Working with club president Noah Reuben, she hopes to invite guest speakers to club events, increase the range of club activities and help students with networking – vital in business.

The MBA Association’s first event will be at the Graduate Student Refresher in Fleming Hall on Feb 28th. First on the club agenda will be recruiting new members, and the Refresher should prove to be a useful event at which to recruit students into the association.

MacArthur Strikes out at Class Allocations

MacArthur Graduate Council (MGC) is starting a petition to protest FAU‘s allocation of classes on its campus. Robert VanBeck, MGC‘s director believes that MacArthur grad students are getting a raw deal. This spring, FAU has changed the numbers of graduate classes available, and more importantly, where they are being offered.

VanBeck believes that the distribution of classes at FAU is unfair to MacArthur students. “Boca is getting all the classes” he says, while “MacArthur has empty classrooms that will hold forty students every night.”

Recent budget cutbacks by FAU have changed the minimum number of students that are needed for a class to run. A spending freeze has also meant that most adjunct professors have lost their jobs, meaning that if there are no faculty or sufficiently qualified grad students available to run a class on a particular campus, then that class cannot run there.

The Boca Raton campus has an advantage over the other campuses (Davie, Tower, Treasure Coast, and MacArthur) in that it has most of the students and most of the faculty. Its central location also makes it the place most likely to have enough students and resources for classes to run. The net result seems to be a loss of choice on the other campuses, and longer commutes for students who would otherwise have attended the northern or southern campuses.

VanBeck also reiterated his stance on internet classes, citing them as “an inferior way of attending school”. To offer internet classes as core classes in a subject is “not acceptable”. His feeling on how this might affect FAU‘s current? “Fortunately we are gaining masters students faster than we are hemorrhaging disenchanted masters students, but I do not know how long that will last as tuition goes up and the word gets out about FAU‘s provision of classes.”

While FAU currently offers a variety of classes at a number of locations for relatively competitive prices – it runs a real chance of losing its marketability as a place to study for a degree. By making it less convenient for students it may lose enrollment, especially among nighttime commuters who don’t want a two-hour commute after a full day at work.

Recent fee increases (notably the $20 traffic and parking fee), make FAU seem less competitive in terms of price. Lastly, offering internet classes places FAU in the same league as community colleges and “internet universities” which are now advertised on national TV.

While distance learning might seem a great idea, it hardly seems to fit in with FAU‘s plans for a “Traditional University” with football teams and such.

A more cynical view is that FAU cares less for its commuter population (its traditional client / student base) than it does for the incoming “traditional” students, obliged to live and eat on (the Boca) campus. Commuters spend less time (and therefore spend less) on campus. Perhaps FAU is trying to “squeeze out” its commuter population in favor of a more “traditional” student population. If it tries to do so, it flies in the face of modern trends in education – which is increasingly commuter based and non-traditional.

Most students these days cannot afford to spend four years on campus out of the labor market. Even those with rich parents may find it harder to find work with employers who are increasingly interested in having educated and experienced employees. In this regard it may well be swimming against the tide of progress.

While it’s unlikely that FAU is trying to get rid of its MacArthur students, what is evident is that when times get tough, there is strength in numbers. At FAU, Boca has the numbers. Those who live far away will probably have to get used to a longer commute in the months to come.