River Front Rally: Students Get Pumped for the Homecoming Game

On Thursday Oct. 24, Jacksonville University students made their way down to the Amphitheatre at the Dolphin Green to shake up school spirit for the Homecoming game against Davidson on Saturday Oct. 26.

With the sun going down and the temperature dropping to a cool night, students gathered around the stage engaged in the activities and contests. Chunia Graves, MC for the night and JU social science major, riled up the crowd.

Contests included a root-beer drinking contest, a wing-eating contest with three different rounds in which the wings got hotter, and a tug-of-war contest where girls faced off against boys. Winners of the eating and drinking contest received free JU fleece jackets from the Bookstore. The girls won the tug-of-war contest and received JU drawstring bags.

“It was fun winning the root-beer chugging contest, especially it being my last semester,” said Jeff Miller, senior aviation management major.

After the contests were over, students were sent down to the riverfront. There were fire pits, ingredients to make s’mores and a pumpkin carving competition held by Campus Outreach.

“The tug-of-war challenge was exciting for many students,” Miller said. “And the fire pits were a nice addition to the beach.”

Presidential Fellows

Each day, voices of change bounce off the walls and the heavy wooden door of the Jacksonville University President’s Office.

From this space, nestled into the third floor of the Howard Administration Building, the words ricochet into action.

Sound waves move through the inner and outer structure of the university and are reborn into an array of forms. Their impact is heard in the clatters of campus construction, in the echoes of auditorium lectures, in the cheers of sporting events and the applause of artistic performances.

With the start of the fall 2013 semester, two new voices joined the influential noise. Among the administrators, trustees and faculty driving the growth and change of the university, 2013 alumni Katherine Thomas and Luka Vukadinovic have entered into the conversation, bringing the perspective of direct student experience with them.

Articulate and organized, Thomas and Vukadinovic have taken on roles as JU’s first ever presidential fellows. Hired on as full-time, paid employees of the president’s office, the pair reports directly to Cost.

“Our job description is very broad: enhance the student experience,” Vukadinovic said. “Everything we do is for the students.”

The presidential fellows both actively participate in executive meetings and work directly with the students, faculty, parents and alumni.

In meetings, they serve as representatives of the student voice, often working with executives who have never before had the opportunity to interact so closely with students, Vukadinovic said.

“I think they have a compassion for what the students are going through and a passion for the university,” Cost said. “Those two things together make them extremely valuable.”

Throughout the four-years of their own student experience, both fellows played active roles as student leaders in the JU community. Thomas participated in several activities, including Peer Career Advisor, Jacksonville University Student Alliance, the Delta Delta Delta sorority, and Student Alumni Association.  Vukadinovic graduated summa cum laude and was named the 2013 JU College of Arts & Sciences Student of the Year. He participated in organizations such as the Political Science Society, and JUSA.

“They sit right in there at that nexus of connections between today’s and tomorrow’s experience for students,” Cost said.

Fast, smart, and light on their feet, it is the fellow’s job to anticipate, listen and respond to the needs of “today’s students,” faculty, parents and alumni.

One of their primary functions is to move fluidly between the various departments of the university, working with each to ensure that the individual entities are connected.

“Picture them moving horizontally across anything that runs vertically,” Cost said.

This “silo busting” function helps changes on campus move forward in a more cohesive, communicative and effective manner. The connections to various people and programs they developed while experiencing the university as students translated into a powerful leverage point for their tenure as fellows.

“They can help strengthen those tendons that sit between different organizations here,” Cost said. “They can do it fast and they can do it positively.”

The idea to have recent alumni working within the administrative fabric of the university as presidential fellows arose in spring 2013 as Cost began interacting with the student body during the first semester of his presidency.

The concept of the presidential fellows program works into a university goal to get as many people as possible involved in decisions and the rapid, dynamic state of change that is currently taking hold of the university.

“I found that sometimes the smartest thing to do was to shut your mouth and listen to the most important people here, the students and the faculty,” Cost said. “The students and faculty were direct, honest, loved the school, and wanted it to be better.”

Prior to being approached for the position, Vukadinovic and Thomas both planned to attend graduate school.

Vukadinovic, after being granted acceptance to a number of graduate schools, had set his sights on studying developmental economics at the London School of Economics. In light of the opportunity to be a presidential fellow, he chose to defer his enrollment for a year.

“I wanted to take part in the progress and transformation that’s taking place on this campus,” Vukadinovic said.

Thomas, who aspires to one day run for political office, plans to attend law school following her time with the president’s office. While working as a fellow, she is also continuing her education with JU by beginning graduate coursework.

Since returning to their alma mater, Thomas and Vukadinovic’s work has had a large and tangible influence on the institution.

“They have been better and with greater impact than I had imagined,” Cost said.

The fellows have put a particular focus on the freshman class. They worked largely on improving on-campus housing move-in days for students and parents. Soon, they will call the parents of each freshman to discuss their individual experiences and overall satisfaction with the university so far.

If students have any questions, concerns or ideas they would like to raise, they can contact the presidential fellows by e-mail or by arranging a time to stop by their office, which is located on the third floor of the Davis Student Commons.

“Katherine and Luka are a direct linkage between what the students and faculty want and deserve and a way I can use this office of the president to try to make things happen in sort of a timely, intelligent way,” Cost said.

At the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, Thomas, Vukadinovic and Cost will evaluate whether or not they will remain JU fellows for another year or move forward to graduate school. Following their departure, the legacy of presidential fellows will continue, with new recent alumni stepping in to ensure continuous improvement and student voice in the university.

“It puts students at the forefront of this university,” Thomas said. “At all of these leadership and decision making meetings, there is now the opinion of someone who has been here. Those four years of student experience are immediately brought to the table.”

Suicide Prevention Week (cape) Story!

6:37 p.m. Thursday. Jacksonville University. Dusty skies. A hero.

She sits in a crowd. No, she’s sitting with the crowd. They are mesmerized by magic.

The magic continues. Cards flash, disappear and shift. Shock. Laughter. Clapping.

The crowd seemed happy, coming together to share their talents. During the final evening event of JU’s second annual Suicide Prevention Week (SPW), a sense of community bonded the heroes. Active Minds and SPW hosted an Open Mike Night and costume contest to spread awareness and bring groups together. With a winning costume and a positive attitude, sophomore Michelle Davidson became Glitter Girl.

“She’s super positive and makes people feel super great about themselves so when there’s somebody who’s in distress, she helps them handle the situation with a positive attitude,” Davidson said. “I was just looking at the stuff I had in my room and I had a lot of shiny glittery things and lots of sparkly makeup.”

SPW was an important cause for Davidson, and she feels appreciative for the heroes in her life.

“I didn’t have a home partway through my senior year so my theater teacher took me in and adopted me, and now I’m part of her family,” she said. “Everybody in my family has attempted suicide so it’s definitely an important issue for me. It’s something that people look beyond and it’s more important than people make it out to be. It’s really serious and everyone thinks it wouldn’t happen to them but it does.”

Davidson feels that through being intentional, everyone can be a hero in everyday life.

“By staying positive and always lending a hand for those who need help, not even those who ask for help but those you see need it,” Davidson said. “Lifting people up even if you don’t know them.”

Other events during SPW included positive chalk messages, letters to soldiers, candlelight vigils, superhero photo-shoots, “Who’s Your Hero?” photo-shoots, scream fest, and more. Active Minds encourages students to “be a hero” every day to prevent suicide and visit the counseling center on campus for help and more information.

College Ranking

The list is out and all eyes are wide open to see where their college, or potential college, falls on the list of National University Rankings as set by U.S. News.

Jacksonville University made it to number 62 on the Regional University listing, making the students proud to call JU home.

“As a freshman, I never really wondered about the school ranking,” said Alexa Zucker, freshman psychology major. “But now that I know, it makes me proud. I like knowing that JU is making an impact not just on me but in the region as well.”

Schools are rated based on three board categories: social mobility, recruiting and graduating low-income students, research, producing cutting-edge scholarship and Ph.D.’s, and service, encouraging students to give something back to their country, according to washingtonmonthly.com.

“I definitely think JU has all of these things,” said Krystal Dannenhoffer, senior marine science major. “As a senior, I’ve been around to see what JU has to offer and the changes that have made it even better. I think we’re really working hard to not just maintain, but improve upon all of these things that will improve our ranking.”

JU is making this improvement possible with the ECHO campaign that launched last year as part of the reaccreditation JU had to undergo. ECHO started this year with the 2013-2014 catalog and is challenging students to apply what they’ve learned in class to real-world situations.

ECHO can be accomplished through undergraduate research or independent study, service learning, internships and study abroad.

ECHO’s slogan is “Everything you do comes back to you!” This slogan shows its truth with the new ranking for JU and the pride the students are taking in it.

“ECHO had an impact on all the students to do something more while in college and now with the new ranking, I think people will be even more empowered to make JU the best it can possibly be,” Dannenhoffer said. “I can’t wait to come back after I graduate and see what they’re going to do next.”

International Alumni: Dolphins Without Borders

Jacksonville University. 1978. They called it the Rathskeller. Two students played pool, while a third student observed both sides and shook his head at the outcome. A group of women laughed about a new inside joke while a stressed-out student had a beer with his statistics professor to discuss the upcoming exam. Though the evening was late, there was constant energy.

Shirin Brenick, director of alumni relations, graduated from Jacksonville University in 1979. Some of her most memorable moments at JU were at the Rathskeller, where students would come together after class to play pool, drink beer and hang out. Looking at old yearbooks, Brenick remembers her “Jewel of Jacksonville,” the students and the professors who shaped her time at JU.

“The professors would come and have a drink with you there,” Brenick said. “I didn’t sit with too many of my professors. They were not the Dr. Blanton’s of the world. Everybody loved Walker Blanton.”

Brenick arrived at JU in 1975 from Tehran, Iran. At the time she didn’t know anything about Jacksonville, but quickly considered it a second home.

“I just thought ‘Oh, my gosh. I don’t think my parents know I’m going to a country club to go to school,’” Brenick said. “I made friends quickly but I was experiencing a cultural difference even though I felt that I understood the culture. My father purchased a home here so we would have a home in the United States. It gave me a home base, but I missed my home country.”

Some of these JU connections lasted long after graduation. Brenick remembered an old friend, Angel, who now lives in California. Her eyes brightened when she talked about the opportunity to see her again.

“We just connected after over 30 years,” Brenick said. “I just spoke to her on the phone yesterday and we’re going to try to see each other. Your mind is still that young person that loved hanging out and drinking beer and talking about cute guys. You never really lose that.”

Brenick, planning on going home after graduation, did not take advantage of all of the career recruiters on campus hiring for U.S. jobs and fell into a surprising twist to her plan.

“I would have gone back home except the revolution happened,” Brenick said. “When I graduated, I realized I wasn’t returning. It was a shock that I now had to work and make a living in the United States. It came to such a surprise to me that I wasn’t going back that I was kind of undetermined of what to do, where to go.”

Brenick moved around looking for a new home. She went to Kentucky, Ohio, Tallahassee, and Egypt with her husband. She eventually landed back at JU and got involved in alumni relations. Brenick believes she would have found her place sooner if she would have gotten more involved on campus earlier in her time of undergrad.

“I know we’re here to get an education, but getting involved is an education; serving is an education,” Brenick said. “If I had learned more of that as a student, I think I would have been engaged in JU much sooner.”

Now that Brenick is back at JU, her passion to reach current students comes from her own experience. Remembering the Rathskeller and looking at old yearbooks fuels her desire to reach alumni and students, opening their minds to what it could look like to be active at JU.

“I want to be involved with students and that’s why we have the Student Alumni Association,” Brenick said. “It’s important for them to realize that alumni are just students in different times of their lives. We really are bonded under the umbrella of JU. Stay engaged in partnership for life.”

Luka Vukadinovic came to JU from Montenegro. After graduating in 2013, he now works as a presidential fellow and knows what it means to stay engaged with JU after graduation.

“From the very first day I stepped my foot on this campus, JU offered me more than I’ve ever wanted or expected,” Vukadinovic said. “I became part of this community and more importantly, JU became part of me. Being so far from my homeland, the school became my home away from home. The faculty, staff and fellow students became my family.”

Like Brenick, Vukadinovic encourages current international students to get involved on campus, and has grown from his experiences outside of his country.

“Being immersed in another culture, understanding differences and spotting similarities, meeting new people and experiencing their lifestyle and traditions—all of this had an impact on me and every other student that has studied abroad,” he said. “Not a single day goes by where the impact of studying abroad is not felt in my life.”

Vukadinovic hopes to take what he has learned abroad back to his home country.

“I will certainly consider going back to Montenegro once I complete my graduate studies at the London School of Economics and gain sufficient work experience so that ultimately through my knowledge and expertise I can help my country further develop and prosper,” he said.

Since most international students do return home to their country, Brenick hopes to develop a sense of partnership with the international alumni and hope that if they revisit campus, they see that there are new aspects of JU infused with the old, but that “the true JU is still JU.”

“It’s not a cultural thing. In my country, it’s not something we embrace like they do in the U.S. You go to your high school reunion, you go to your college reunion. Everybody’s always doing this reunion and coming back, but they don’t do that in foreign countries. It would be a very new mindset to develop in international students at JU that just because you graduate and get your diploma and leave, you’re not gone. We’re Dolphins, and we’re Dolphins for life.”

“Fright Night”: JU’s Halloween Event

On Oct. 30, three Jacksonville University agencies, the Jacksonville University Student Alliance, Dolphin Productions and Sodexo, will sponsor a Halloween party called “Fright Night.” There will be a dance, haunted house, costume contest and food.

JUSA spearheaded plans for the dance party, which will be held in the Wolfson room in the Kinne Center starting at 9:30 p.m. and ending at 12 a.m. There will be Halloween decorations, a DJ with special lighting and effects, and swipe-free food catered by Sodexo. DP organized a haunted house that is to be set up in the handicap parking lot outside of the Kinne Center.

The inflatable haunted house will be provided by a company that supplies all materials that are needed including costumes and masks for the student actors. The storyline behind the haunted house tells the tale of a man who killed his wife. However, DP has added its own flavor. The story will be read aloud to students entering the house to set the scene.

“The students who are acting it out are really into it, so they want to take it to the next level,” said Madeline Shaffer, junior dance and illustration double major and campus pulse coordinator for DP. “Get ready to get scared.”

Among the night’s activities, there will be a competitive costume contest. The categories include the best duo costume and best individual costume. Judges for the contest will be JU’s prominent Sodexo workers, who will have a rubric to tally contestants on a point system. The winners of these categories will be given prizes including iPad mini’s.

“Halloween is a holiday students get excited for, and we wanted to give them an event that they can be excited about and remember,” Shaffer said. “I think it will be a good turnout. There will be free food, which is always a good thing. Also, a lot of students go out on Wednesday nights, so I think that will be great for our event.”

All three organizations wanted to work together so that there was only one major event and not several small ones.

“I was planning the haunted house, and my grad assistant said that Sodexo was planning on making a Halloween meal, and I knew Will wanted to do a dance party, so we figured we’d combine all three events into one big one,” Shaffer said. “We didn’t want to split the campus into three
different events.”

Will Baxley, JUSA president, notes that working with two other organizations on campus will allow for a bigger and better event for students to enjoy.

“This event is an awesome opportunity for us to work together with two other powerful agencies on our campus,” he said. “We definitely think that this kind of collaboration has the potential to turn into an event of a whole new caliber. From a high dollar DJ to free iPad minis as prizes, we are going all out for this one.”

The Unit; The Past and The Present: A Look At JU’s NROTC Program

Funds come from a raccoon digging its way through a trashcan. Leaves rustle around the ground and the raccoon stops its search as its ears pick up the sound waves forming on the campus streets.

A low rumble starts and the raccoon freezes in its path; a rhythmic beating, slapping down hard on the pavement, each pounding step reverberating, echoing, until it’s right on top of him. He flees from the sounds as those who are responsible come into view.

The runners pass by the raccoon’s vacated spot without a second glance as they continue on with their early morning physical training.

These are the students of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Unit.

The History

Sept. 23, 1971 marked the day the first NROTC Unit in the State of Florida was formally dedicated during a ceremony at Jacksonville University. The first class at JU consisted of 43 midshipmen who began their training on Sept.1, 1971.

JU is one of four universities in Florida, 63 in the United States, that offer
NROTC training.

Robert Spiro, former Jacksonville University President, not only helped create the modern JU but helped establish the university’s NROTC program. Spiro died Oct. 15,2013 but not before leaving a
legacy at JU.

“He maintained a passion for the NROTC and the university for all these years, long after he left,” said Capt. Herbert Hadley, commander of JU’s Naval ROTC, in a wave weekly article.

The Missions Statement of NROTC at JU, according to nrotc.ju.edu, is three-fold:

1. To develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to commission college graduates as officers.

2. They must possess a basic professional background, be motivated towards a career in the naval service and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.

3. NROTC accomplishes its mission through a system of training and instruction in essential naval subjects at civil educational institutions, which qualify students for appointments as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

Since starting in 1971, the JU NROTC Unit has commissioned over 1,250 Navy ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants for service in a wide variety of warfare disciplines. These include surface warfare, submarine warfare, naval aviation, nursing, nuclear power and Marine Corps occupational specialties, according to
nrotc.ju.edu.

“We’ve been around since 1971 and essentially the program is the same,” Hadley said. “Our students have to complete their academic degree, of course. They have to complete our classroom requirements. They have to be physically and mentally qualified. Once they complete the program they are guaranteed an active duty commission with either the Navy or the Marine Corps.”

Hadley said that even though the structure of the program has not changed, the unit is still working to strengthen their recognition on campus.

The Mentorship

“I wanted to focus on enhancing the already good relationship that we’ve had with the university,” Hadley said. “We also hope to reach out to the new veterans club on campus, build a relationship with them and make sure we’re supporting each other. Last year, we also started a mentoring program within the battalion, so the juniors and seniors are now mentors to the freshmen and sophomores.”

Many NROTC students mentored younger students before the program was implemented, but it is done officially now that it is in place.

“It’s all about helping the younger midshipmen both navigate college life and the NROTC program,” Hadley said. “We think it will help us reduce the amount of students that want to leave the program.”

Junior NROTC member, Alyssa Cardona said being in NROTC is a great commitment but the honor you receive from being in the unit is worth the commitment and time
put into it.

“When we graduate we’re commissioning and becoming Naval and Marine Corps officers,” Cardona said. “We will be leading others in tasks we never encountered before, but this was what we signed up for. In the end, we are all doing it for other people. It’s a sacrifice where we choose to serve so others can enjoy their everyday lives.”

The Goals

There are six goals of the NROTC unit at JU, Hadley said. He believes each student has either reached or will reach those goals.

“I inherited a tremendous program,” Hadley said. “We have some of the finest young people on the campus. They do a terrific job with both representing the university and representing the Navy and the Marine Corps.

The goals for students of the NROTC program are as follows:

1. An understanding of the fundamental concepts and principles of naval science

2. A basic understanding of the associated professional knowledge

3. An appreciation of the requirements for national security

4. A strong sense of personal integrity, honor and individual responsibility

5. An educational background which will allow the midshipman to undertake successfully, in later periods of his/her career, advanced continuing education in a field of application and interest to the
naval service

6. A high state of physical fitness for the purposes of health and performance

“NROTC is a great place to start,” Hadley said. “It’s a great place to learn leadership. If you decide to stay in the military, the leadership grows. If you decide to get out, the leadership skills you learned here will stay with you forever.”

Hadley said that all NROTC units work hard but he believes JU’s is the best.

“I think we have the best NROTC unit in the nation,” Hadley said. “I don’t think you’ll ever find a NROTC unit that has the same level of integration into the university as JU does. The university has embraced the unit and the unit has embraced the university. We are very supportive of each other and that’s what helps each of us grow.”

Campus Consciousness: Sustainability Gains Footing At JU

The footprints of Jacksonville University come from everywhere.

They flow out with each pump of water that spurts from campus fountains and faucets. They push out from the systems that cool the Florida air, circulating through its offices, classrooms and labs. These impressions are nicked into the earth with every choice made by students, faculty and staff as they shuffle about throughout their daily routines; whether it is to fill a re-usable water bottle or buy another, to flick the light-switch on or off, to drive cross-campus or put foot to concrete and walk.

Though the process is slow, it is an impact that the university is becoming increasingly conscious of. And each year, as concepts of sustainability become more prevalent on campus, the prints left on the environment by JU shrink a little smaller.

Progress toward more sustainable practices can be seen in the academics, culture and infrastructure of the university.

The Campus

Tucked alongside the St. Johns River in a heavily forested area, the natural setting that remains around the university and distinguishes it from the rumbling city just outside its gates is one of the strongest points of sustainability, said Ashley Johnson, JU coordinator of sustainability.

“You have so many opportunities to engage in that part of sustainability,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of other small metropolitan universities have what we
have here.”

Additionally, a push toward sustainable building practices can be witnessed in recent university construction.

In 2010, the Marine Science Research Institute was unveiled as JU’s first “green building,” receiving the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification status by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The College of Heath Sciences Facility, currently under construction by Perry-McCall Construction Inc., the same company which built the MSRI, will be LEED certified for energy efficiency when it opens July 2014.

However, many of the older buildings within the campus remain
environmentally draining.

“Part of the charm of the university is the retro style buildings, but with that comes a lot of older construction, appliances and machines,” Johnson said. “Even though it’s nice to have that look and feel, many of the systems within those buildings are also ‘retro’ and need to be updated and
moved towards a more energy efficient model.”

With the sustainability academic program in place, Johnson feels that the university could use the updating of aging systems as a chance to teach students the value of sustainable upgrades.

“This is a perfect opportunity for the university to find the nexus between green construction, retrofitting laboratories, and re-purposing some aspects of the classrooms,” Johnson said. “It’s an opportunity to kind of showcase how we can take these old classrooms and labs and we don’t have to completely knock them down. We can salvage, retrofit, but let’s make it energy efficient and as state of the art as we can.”

The Academics

The sustainability academic program, which officially began in fall 2012, is starting in on the second year of its integration into the university. JU is the only small liberal arts college in the Northeast Florida region that has a 4-year degree in sustainability, offering students a unique position within the community.

“We’re in a really great position to kind of leverage that uniqueness,” Johnson said.

And the field is growing. A Sept. 10 article in U.S. News and World Report ranked sustainability, among robotics and petroleum engineering, as one of the “hottest” college majors in terms of job potential.

“JU is providing innovative and hands-on coursework and experiences through the sustainability major,” Johnson said. “I think this is one of JU’s greatest assets in terms of moving towards a sustainable campus.”

In spring 2014, the JU sustainability 101 service learning course will have the opportunity to explore sustainable practices hands-on. Partnering with the Northeast Florida Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and the University of North Florida, they will work on the community Live S.M.A.R.T trailer project. Students will help research sustainable residential appliances and practices to outfit the trailer, which, once it is built, will travel around northeast Florida teaching the community about sustainable living.

In addition to the program, Johnson would like to see sustainability as a universal theme within the JU curriculum.

“Weaving sustainability into most courses is not a terribly difficult thing to do because it looks at maximizing that triple bottom line,” Johnson said. “You have the environmental, economic and the social justice aspects. It kind of fits nicely into most disciplines.”

Sustainability in Student Life

Another, much more personal, facet of the university where sustainability is beginning to blend into the mix is residential life.

Fall 2013 marked the integration of the first sustainable living and learning community at JU. The sustainability dorm, located in Oak Hall, integrates sustainable practices and consciousness of environmental impacts into students’ daily lives.

In June 2013, JU received $5,000 in funding from the Siemens Industry Inc., devoted to developing the sustainability dorm, as well as monitoring and comparing the impact of it versus a traditional dorm.

On the frontline of this initiative is junior sustainability major and Residential Advisor for the JU Sustainability Living-Learning Community, Justina Freeman.

“It’s been interesting,” Freeman said. “We’re doing resource management this semester. This month is recycling. Next month we’re focusing on electricity.”

Living within this environment encourages students to be conscious of the impact of the choices they make within their daily routines.

“A lot of the interest I have seen is from students outside of the major,” Freeman said. “My biggest recyclers on the hall are music majors.”

In addition to her work with the hall, Freeman has also composed a proposal

and bylines for the formation of a JU environmental sustainability club.

“All we’re missing is the student interest,” Freeman said. “We need enough students in sustainability to really get a stronghold.”

The Little Things

As JU moves forward assimilating sustainability into the campus lifestyle, it’s the small things that have the potential to build into big differences, Johnson said. Simple changes like adding more water fountains with a water bottle filling apparatuses, reducing the amount of disposable packaging on campus foods, or increasing the availability and uniform look of recycling bins can have a powerful impact.

“We can’t turn around and all of a sudden we’re a green, zero-waste campus,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a slow process but it’s one that the university is committed to. We have an academic program in place. We have some institutional strategies in place. But it’s going take everybody wanting it and chipping in to make that happen.”

Retention Rate Rises 10 Percent: Students Stand By JU

It’s a rare occasion.

From the fall of 2012 to the fall of 2013, Jacksonville University’s retention rate has drastically raised 10 percent. For the past few years it has remained around the rate of 61 percent. Now, JU has brought back 71 percent of its 2012-
2013 class.

The rate is weighed by the amount of returning freshmen that re-enroll the following year as sophomores. The number is analyzed and dissected into demographics of age, race, gender, extracurricular activities, academic achievement, and the student’s involvement in programs and courses.

Kristie Gover, JU Chief Student Affairs Officer, said that the retention rate of the years to come is always influenced by the present.

“I think the thing that is most important to know is that retaining is really the by-product of our daily work,” she said. “Everything we do impacts retention. The gain that we made this year is the result of a culture change. It is almost unheard of for a university to jump 10 percent in one year.”

Programs that help JU’s retention rate include committees that are lead by Gover and other school-wide initiatives such as the Student Solutions Center, Academic Advising, Residential Life, the Big Dolphin Program, the Horizon Program, Freshman Summer Orientation, the JU101 course and more.

Gover notes that receiving a new university president, Tim Cost, on top of the strategic committees and initiatives, allowed for an extra pulse of excitement and encouragement to help bring back more students. The additions of Chick-fil-A, veterans center and the new College of Health Sciences facility. The improvements of the cafeteria and the plans for the River House didn’t hurt either.

“All of these things send a really strong message that we care about and are listening to the students, and that we are actually following through on what we hear,” Gover said. “That is really what helped jolt the campus and create that shift in the culture.”

Campus-wide improvements and additions are not the only facets that encourage students, but financial aid and scholarships also affect whether freshmen return to JU or not. If a student’s GPA falls below a certain average, the student will lose financial aid for the following year. JU’s goal is to help educate students and offer assistance with getting back on track academically so that they can return the next year with the same amount of aid they received as a freshman, Gover said.

Students who are involved in clubs, athletics and organizations tend to return because these students seem to have a more enjoyable experience while attending JU, Gover said.

“They have their affinity groups, have made friends through those groups, have an advisor that has helped them along the way, or have a coach that has been instrumental in the athlete’s success,” Gover said.

Sophomores indicate that the small campus size allows for more quality attention and relationships between professor and student.

“I returned to JU because of the [small] classroom size and the one-on-one attention,” said Blanca Fernandez, sophomore exercise science major.

Director of Student Solutions Center, Laura Andrews, mentions that sometimes in order to be successful, reinventing the wheel is not necessary. Rather, being consistent, communicative and understanding how and when to adjust the design allows progress and growth for the initiatives.

“It is definitely the university that has pulled together,” Andrews said. “It is not one certain initiative. I think we’ve seen the fruit of the labor after three years. I think we’re all excited for next year and how we can increase it, but I think the jump has really been spearheaded by Dr. Gover and President Cost.”

Andrews would like to see another radical increase in the retention rate for next year. However, she understands that is a tough goal to accomplish.

“We would love to see another 10 percent increase,” Andrews said. “That would be wishful thinking. I would love to see an increase in the three-to-five range. That’s my goal for next year, but it’s university-wide and we will have to work together. I think we can do it.”

The impact of the work of the past three years hasn’t gone unnoticed by students, alumni and faculty.

“I think the energy on campus is much different,” Gover said. “Things that you don’t think make a difference, make a difference. It’s hard to say that there is one factor that impacted the campus. I believe it is a shift in the culture and we are really fortunate to be a part of that. I think we’ve only seen the beginning of change; the tip of the iceberg.”

Campus Construction: Aspire in Action

Photo By: Alyssa Stevenson

River House- The donor-raised $1 million construction for the River House began during the middle of August 2013. The house is being completely gutted including the walls and ceilings to leave just its bare frame. The house will have brand new features in order to help “create a sense of community for JU students and the entire JU family” and to “boost pride in JU among students, faculty, staff and alumni,” according to mydolphin.ju.edu/pavers. Brad Negaard, who designed the Boat House, has also designed the plans for the River House.

Improvements on the house will include an outdoor event deck, a conference room that can hold about ten people, a conference room that can hold about 30 people, a bar that will serve beer and wine, a screened porch, an outdoor fireplace, storage space for volleyball and a sitting area. The current entrance of the house will be shifted to the right and the house will have 16-foot ceilings straight through the back of the house. The deck will lead down to where the existing bleachers at the volleyball courts are and will consist of steps for people to sit and watch the volleyball games. There will be outdoor bathrooms for games and for use when the house is closed and locked after hours. Cash or credit cards will complete all transactions for beer, wine and food at the bar, not meal plans or flex bucks.

The house will be completed during the spring semester.

Parking Lots- Due to the frequent traffic at JU’s Orthodontics, there was a need for more parking in front of the Howard building. There will be approximately 60 new parking stalls added in Lot A and B. There will be five stalls reserved for admissions visitors, 15 reserved for campus visitors and the remaining will be designated for faculty and staff. The visitor parking that is now located in the Orthodontics area, will become Orthodontics parking only. The addition of new parking allows for other designated parking areas to shift and relieve pressure on Lot C.

Softball Stadium- Construction of the $250,000 improvements to the JU softball stadium began during late spring of 2013. The additions include coach offices, a locker room and team space and coverage of the batting cages. However, there will still not be a visiting team locker room.

This improvement was necessary because the softball team did not have a place of their own; coaches had offices in the baseball stadium and the players didn’t have a locker room to prepare for their games.

The addition helps to bring more recruits and raise the softball program’s status.

Fred Pruitt and Mark Frisch, Board of Trustees members, have been major donors for this project. The dedication and ribbon cutting will be on Oct. 10, 2013.

Veteran Lab/Lounge- There is a population of about two to three hundred military veterans that attend Jacksonville University. Over the summer, moves were made in order to give them their own space to study and relax. There is an unused room in the corner of Founders Building that will be renovated into a lab and a lounge. There will be an entryway that will be added on the outside of Founders Building that goes towards the sidewalk of Council Building. This project will be completed by November 2013.

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