New College of Florida is redefining honors education for the 21st century. As a public honors college, New College offers an affordable alternative to private liberal arts colleges, a customized curriculum that large universities cannot replicate, a robust career education aligned with the needs of its students and the state, and an ideal campus location on beautiful Sarasota Bay. Established in Sarasota in 1960, the college offers a personal and collaborative learning environment—where faculty and students engage in in-depth exploration of ideas and subject matter and students have the freedom to chart their own academic course and prepare for their future career.
Philosophically Driven Foundation
New College of Florida’s history traces back to the 1950s. During that period, citizens had assimilated together at the behest of the local chamber of Commerce to create a local college that would complement Sarasota’s growing arts and culture institutions. The college was designed by a group of educators who believed in the power of the mind. Its educational philosophy was developed over time by some of the best-known educators and students across the country, namely Philip Hiss, John Gustad, John Elmendorf, and Douglas Berggren. The educators wanted to free both the students and the faculty from conventional methods of learning and teachings like a lock-step curriculum, a focus on credit hours, and a GPA.
The founders of the college were decades ahead of their time in promoting “active, hands-on learning” to achieve competence and real mastery. The concept of New College’s educational philosophy—developed over time by its founding fathers—appealed to excellent students across the country. Courtesy of New College’s unique role in the world of academia, a full-page article in Time magazine was devoted to the matriculating class of 1967. In 1971, New College created one of the first applied environmental research programs in the nation.
Ideal and Tailored Curriculum
New College prepares intellectually curious students for a life filled with great achievements. It offers a customized curriculum, personalized career planning, numerous hands-on learning opportunities, and holistic student support on a beautiful residential campus on the Sarasota bayfront. Students seek admission to the college to pursue a rigorous yet flexible liberal arts and science curriculum that is tailored in accordance with their academic interests, career aspirations, and individual learning style. Instead of letter grades, professors at New College provide students with narrative evaluations for each course or project that they complete. The narrative evaluations provide the students with detailed feedback on their academic progress and suggestions for improvement and further study.
Students have the liberty to outline their own educational curriculum under the guidance of faculty advisers. At the start of each semester, students meet with their faculty advisers to develop an academic contract that lists their courses and other learning opportunities such as internships, research, community engagement, etc. Every January, students participate in independent study projects, where they can focus on their field of study, explore a new area of interest, study abroad, take part in an off-campus internship, or create their own art exhibit or performance. In their fourth year, students complete a senior thesis/project and present it to a faculty committee for an oral baccalaureate examination.
Environmentally Oriented Programs
New College students practice eco-friendliness with frequent proposals of initiatives to enhance the natural environment on campus and reduce climate change. From recycling and composting programs to an on-campus community garden, native plant life preserve, and a bee apiary, students are offered countless opportunities to participate in the preservation of the natural environment.
The student-run Council for Green Affairs allocates funds collected from the student green fee to support sustainability initiatives on campus. New College has earned Tree Campus USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation for effectively managing its campus trees, fostering healthy, urban forests, and providing service-learning opportunities for students.
Students are also offered choices to major in Environmental Studies or Marine Biology or apply an environmental lens to interdisciplinary concentrations like Urban Studies and Public Policy. They can also spend a semester at a partner institution in the EcoLeague— a consortium of six liberal arts colleges that are dedicated to sustainability education and environmental studies.
Every summer, about 40 middle and high school students spend two weeks on the college campus to learn about marine science, biomedicine, and the scientific method through hands-on learning opportunities in the natural environment. The PUSH/ SUCCESS program largely attracts local students from underrepresented minorities. With grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, Sarasota Bay Estuary, and the HDR Foundation, students have conducted projects focusing on carbon cycling as well as the impact of microplastics on marine life. Through research in its Pritzker Marine Science Research Center and around Sarasota Bay, students of New College have come to understand the toll of pollution and climate change on the local habitat.
Excellent Pedagogical Guidance
At the helm of the college’s academic affairs division, Suzanne Sherman (Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Associate Professor of Chemistry) has been nurturing New College’s fundamental and educational values with her pedagogical methodologies. After earning her Ph.D. at MIT and completing a post-doc at Harvard, Suzanne joined the New College faculty as an assistant professor of chemistry.
Over the course of her 32-year career here, Suzanne has taught countless students, headed the Natural Sciences Division, and chaired the faculty. Remarking on her academic career, Suzanne states, “Over time, my passion has shifted from a focus on teaching and research in my academic field to New College – in particular, how I can help to maximize the success and happiness of New’s students.”
Optimum Crisis Management Strategies
The pandemic had a significant impact on the educational sector around the world. New College coped with the pandemic by providing online classes and limiting occupancy in the residence halls. Social distancing and face coverings were mandated for students and employees on the campus. Moreover, the college improved wireless access to accommodate the students taking online courses while living on campus. It also provided random COVID testing on a weekly basis and hosted vaccine clinics for the local community on campus.
Standing Out with Excellence
New College is one of the 12 institutions that comprise the public university system of Florida, which is consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #1 state university system in the country. Within this diverse university system, New College provides an affordable and outstanding education in a small college setting where every student receives personalized attention. The student-faculty ratio is 7:1 with an average class size of 12. Classes are taught by full-time professors, not graduate students.
Its student-centered approach to education, blended with intensive faculty mentoring and embedded opportunities for application and experiential learning, propels students’ intellectual curiosity and imparts extraordinary skills for independent learning. Its beautiful 110-care campus, situated on Sarasota Bay in southwest Florida, provides an ideal location for study and research into pressing issues like water quality and resiliency. Among the New College’s 2021 graduates, 93 percent engaged in three or more high-impact practices (e.g., capstone project, internship, study abroad, funded research, living-learning community, service-learning).
New College students have earned many prestigious awards, including numerous NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates, the Udall Scholarship for environmental research, and the Gilman International Scholarship. In 2021, New College student Toni Ginsberg-Klemmt was recognized with an Ozy Genius Award for her solar-powered carport invention. Since 2002, New College has produced about 11 percent of Florida’s Fulbright Scholars – the highest per capita rate of any institution in the state. The rate at which New College produces Fulbrights is more than twice as high as that of Harvard.
Thriving Career Prospects
New College provides generous financial aid to the students through various scholarship programs. The college guarantees scholarship funding to virtually all admitted freshmen who apply for the fall class by its priority deadline. It also offers an ambitious array of both academic and need-based scholarships and grants, including the John Jakes Writing Scholarship, Archimedes STEM Scholarship, Skestos Scholars Leadership Program, and Barancik Access Leadership Scholarship.
Career services and student affairs staff collaborate with faculty to deliver the Novo Career Advantage, a personalized career coaching program for students throughout their academic experience. By helping students develop, apply, and communicate skills gained from their liberal arts education and make intentional and strategic career decisions, the career plan enables students to connect to opportunity and pursue any professional goal successfully.
In 2019, 83% of the Class of 2019 graduates reported being employed or enrolled in graduate school just within four months of graduation. According to PayScale.com’s “Best Liberal Arts Colleges by Salary Potential,” New College graduates earn a median salary of $51,100 within five years of graduation. After ten or more years in the workforce, New College graduates earn a median salary of $98,600, the third-highest median salary among state universities in Florida.
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