FAU is Growing Up

Many students readily admit that FAU was not their first choice of schools. Other students urge their peers to “find another university.” While we may not have the academic recognition of Harvard or a highly-revered football team, we are still expected to compete for jobs with all of our collegiate rivals.

“We lack the quality and reputation to be competitive outside of our region,” said one participant in the Spring 2005 Strategic Planning Survey (SWOT).

Instant name recognition may not be on FAU’s side, but that does not mean students will graduate with a worthless degree. FAU is trying to change its image as a commuter school and instead become a cutting-edge institution that can compete with the big dogs. As such, current students and alumni may just be ahead of their time.

Both the College of Education and the Barry Kaye College of Business already hold high reputations. FAU’s Elementary Education program provides a leg up to new graduates by offering an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement as part of the curriculum. Elementary Education is the most popular undergraduate major at FAU and provides all the certification a graduate needs to teach in Florida, the third most populous state in the country.

FAU’s School of Accounting was named seventh in the nation in 2001 by National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and sixth nationwide over a 10-year span. The ranking was based on the percentage of students who passed all four parts of the Certified Public Accountant exam. The Entrepreneurship Program also gained recognition in 2004 when Entrepreneur magazine ranked the program as the highest in the state.

Another great achievement of FAU is its recent partnership with the Scripps Research Institute. Not only will the partnership allow FAU to build a full medical school but will also create a research program capable of gaining worldwide recognition. These programs will provide students the opportunity to work with some of the best researchers in their field and will improve the university’s reputation as a whole.

While FAU is gearing up to aid in the advancement of medicine, the nursing program is working on health enhancements using non-invasive procedures. The Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is steadily building its reputation as one of the most prominent nursing programs in the country. Centers within the college focus heavily on advances in gerontological research, such as helping the elderly remain mobile and using memory exercises to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. In a city with a growing number of retirees, Boca Raton may be the place to discover cures for the afflictions that plague our elders.

If working with the elderly is not your style, there are plenty of opportunities to gain experience before graduation through both research and internships. Hands-on experience is one of the most valuable ways to guarantee adequate preparation, although there will always be surprises with any career. For the heads-up on these surprises, students may want to speak to their professors, especially if a professor leads a double life (i.e. teaching and working).

A 2004 study conducted by Dr. Sharron L. Ronco, associate provost for institutional effectiveness and analysis at FAU, and John Cahill, coordinator of statistical research for institutional effectiveness, found that 44 percent of FAU professors were adjuncts or other part-time faculty. It was also determined that these faculty members taught 40 percent of all classes at FAU. These statistics are around the national average for commuter schools.

For students, this means they have access to insider knowledge at their fingertips.

Chances are that there is at least one professor on campus who works in any student’s field of interest, or knows someone who does, and can provide truthful answers about the positive and negative aspects of their other job. This invaluable information can help students decide if their potential major is right for them. And it’s definitely better to find this information out before beginning a career.

Glenn Singer, adjunct professor for the School of Communications and a Sun-Sentinel employee says, “adjuncts are the people who can give you the hands-on experience.”

Since hiring part-time employees is one way the university can cut costs, FAU can now afford to raise admission standards and turn away more applicants. President Brogan raised the admission standards in the hopes of giving the university a better reputation. While FAU is still widely seen as a backup school or a stepping stone for a “real” college, administration is slowly weeding out applicants who may not be prepared for college or taking FAU seriously.

“Some of these students are woefully unprepared for college, and they need more than a writing/tutoring center. . . . We do a disservice to these students (and to their classmates and professors) by admitting them,” said another SWOT participant.

While FAU may never compete with the Ivy League, a degree from this institution is worth more now than ever. The university is improving and making its name known in the community. If you believe your degree will not hold much value, just wait and see; FAU is doing everything it can to prove you wrong.