A college visit twofer

This week we decided to visit two campuses of the same university. I’m not real sure how Georgia Southern got on our radar. Katy and I met with an admissions counselor at a college fair so that might have been it and it’s gets mentioned, I’ve known who have gone there. Then they had an information night not too far from us so we attended that as well and it sounded pretty good.

Georgia Southern University (it can’t be abbreviated GSU, that is Georgia State University) has three campuses. The main one is in Statesboro with about 26,000 students. The Armstrong campus is in Savannah and has about 6,000 students and the Liberty Campus is in Hinesville with 500+ students and one building. The Liberty Campus provides classes for high school students taking dual enrollment classes and military personnel from nearby Fort Stewart. Heath wanted to visit Statesboro and I figured we should visit Armstrong as well. It’s just 50 miles away and we thought Katy might like being in Savannah.

We got up early Tuesday morning and made the five-hour drive to Savannah. The Armstrong campus has an interesting history. It just became part of Georgia Southern in 2018 in what Georgia Southern and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents saw as a beneficial merger and Armstrong State University saw as a hostile take-over. The proposal was made at the end of 2017 with no input from students or staff at either campus. There was just enough time to for Armstrong students to get a petition going against it with about 2,000 signatures but it didn’t matter, the Board of Regents’ collective mind was made up. The thinking was the merger would benefit the Statesboro school by having access to the Port of Savannah and it would hopefully boost Armstrong’s graduation rate. The president of Armstrong (who lost his position) and others were really concerned about how the Armstrong name and the family’s contribution would be honored and remembered. They went with the official name of Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus. There was also concern about loss of identity and how classes and programs would be divided between the two campuses. Right off, all sports at Armstrong were eliminated.

So we got there a little early and hung around. It was a small tour that day.

We had the usual 30-minute talk from an admission’s counselor. She mentioned that they run a bus every Friday to the Statesboro campus for football games. Otherwise it was the same stuff we heard at information night. Other than the football games, which aren’t even at that campus, she didn’t really talk about campus life.

For academics, nursing and health sciences majors make up about 40% of the students and I get the idea that’s where all their resources go and everything else takes a back seat. I just don’t get the feeling it’s a real academically challenging school. They do have an honors program but I would wonder how much effort they really put into that.

Following the spiel we took a tour of campus. The whole place just screamed “community college” to me. I felt exactly like I was walking around the Victoria College/University of Houston-Victoria Campus. There are 6,5000 students and only about 1,000 live on campus. It really is a commuter school. We visited a couple of academic buildings and walked through the student center with a small cafeteria and they have a Chick-fil-A as well, although it’s brand new and has limited hours (no breakfast menu yet).  We saw the library but didn’t go in, and the fitness center/gym which is nice, but no pool.

The residence halls and apartments are pretty much like every other college in the system. The traditional dorm rooms are divided, which is unique. They are semi-private or private.  So if you and your roommate really don’t hit it off you aren’t in each others’ way too much.

Private room

Semi-private.

You  have more space with the private because you don’t lose space to the entry way. You can be a little more social, though. They also have apartments but we didn’t look at one of those.

Our student tour guide didn’t say anything about social activities, clubs or the like. I asked if students stayed at school on the weekends and she said they do if something is going on in town. Savannah is rather a party town. She also said the clubs will organize activities — “just check your email” — and the school will do things like rent a pier at Tybee Island and bus everyone down for a cookout.

One neat thing about the campus is the greenery. They have a plant of some kind from every continent in the world (maybe not Antarctica!).  And everything is labeled with its scientific name. We were tramping around in the 90-degree heat and not only were we wilting, some of the plants were looking a little wilted, too. Summers are hard.

One of their international gardens.

They had lots of trees with all that pretty Spanish moss. (Which does not originate in little baggies at the craft store!)

We finished the tour. Katy was really hot and wanted to go for ice cream but we just didn’t have time to go downtown to someplace like Savannah Candy Kitchen. We were touring the Statesboro campus the next day and our hotel reservation was in Statesboro. It’s cheaper and the next morning we would be 50 miles closer to that campus.

So we loaded up and headed back up the highway and got checked into the hotel. Katy was still hot and was wishing she had thought to bring her swimsuit as the hotel had a pool. It didn’t even occur to me when I was packing. The hotel was packed. It turns out the college was having one of their orientation sessions (SOAR) for incoming students and there was a youth baseball tournament going on in town.

We were sitting around the room, Heath and Katy looking online for places for dinner. They were tossing around places like Ruby Tuesday and Chili’s. I decided to go down to the front desk and ask the clerks if there were any local places they really liked. The women behind the desk were very enthusiastic in making recommendations and had index cards with maps and descriptions of various restaurants. They also said you can get from anywhere to anywhere in about 10-15 minutes.

We ended up at a place called Gnats Landing where you can tip in beer.

I got the idea our waiter was a student. He asked if we were there for SOAR and we said no, just a campus visit and we had visited Armstrong that day. He said “so she’s going to Armstrong?” and I gave an emphatic “NO”. I mentioned I thought it really had more of a community college feel. He agreed but said he thought the nursing program at Armstrong was good and it probably is. He said he thought Statesboro was better overall.

So the next morning we were up for another tour. This one was a bit bigger — nine students. Statesboro is a college town. The school has 26,000 students, the town population is 31,000 but I have no idea how many college students are included in that number. But everything in town revolves around the school and the town supports the school.

So we started in the admissions office and heard much of the same information for the third time. This counselor had a really good presentation. She talked a lot about campus life, which I was glad to hear. We heard this at both schools, football tickets are included in your activity fee so admission is free and you get I think four discounted guest passes each year. They have lots of other clubs and activities going on.

We did hear about admission requirements all three times. The University System of Georgia sets the minimum GPA and SAT/ACT scores (just for each subject, not the composite) for every school in the system and they are all the same. Those are non-negotiable. The schools can then determine how selective they are based on rigor of classes, essay, recommendations, whether or not a student spent the summer “helping those poor leopards in India” or anything else they think will help them pick the best students. Then that raises the bar on the the grades and test scores. UGA and Georgia Tech have the same minimum GPA and scores but the students who actually get accepted based on everything else have much higher grades and scores. Georgia Southern, however, takes any student that meets the minimum. No essays, recommendations, resume or other personal consideration. Where it matters then is the quality of work that’s expected once you are at the school and I’ve gotten the feeling that this campus has high expectations. Georgia College and State University, which we visited last month, is a bit more selective but still not as much as UGA. So Katy will get in here with no problem. We did find out later from our most excellent student tour guide. Rayne, that the nursing, education and engineering programs have a secondary application process that is selective. We found out from out waiter that students who don’t get into nursing at Statesboro get in at Armstrong.

Both campuses really talked up study abroad. You can go for two weeks to two semesters and if they don’t have a program you want, they will hook you up with a program from another university in the system. I got the idea they really want students to do this and find a way to make it happen. Every college offers it but they seem to really make it a priority.

Then it was out for another hour-long walk. It was late morning and hadn’t gotten really hot yet.

Rayne, our tour guide,  was amazing. By the end of the tour she knew all nine prospective students’ names and what they planned to major in or if they didn’t know. We started at Sweetheart’s Circle, which is really a big traffic circle, but the legend is if you and your sweetheart walk all the way around it counterclockwise you will get married and live happily ever after. You can also have your wedding in the circle.

This big tree was in the circle. So pretty and great for climbing! This campus had a lot of trees. And on the topic of nature it also has a nature preserve and a Center for Wildlife Education with eagles. They were having a bird show later that afternoon but we couldn’t stay.

To get back on track …

Sort of.

I don’t know why there is an owl on the building but there is.

We walked through the student union. I was surprised to see it was closed on Saturdays and Sundays. It was really nice inside with lounge areas, fast food, computers and printers, offices for student activities and services. One program they have is called Alternative Break. If you don’t want to spend spring break at the beach you can spend it building houses in Puerto Rico or something.

Inside the student union.

We also visited the main cafeteria, which is also the building where the post office and mailboxes are. Heath wasn’t sure how they could feed so many students with only two cafeterias (and one is closed on weekends) but with continuous serving and multiple food stations, as long as everyone doesn’t show up at the same time and want the same thing it’s not a problem. And not everyone eats in the cafeteria.

One of the serving stations. GUS the Eagle is their mascot so quite a few things are named after him, including the GUS Marts on campus. Our tour guide said they were “gas stations without the gas” — just little convenience stores where you can pick up snacks and sundries.

And speaking of Gus …

 

This is a spot to have your picture taken but I knew what Katy would say if I mentioned it so I didn’t.

This campus offers a lot of programs. We went into the first floor of the building that holds the interior design and nutrition and food sciences so they have sewing labs and kitchens for learning to cook. So I’m thinking there might be some interesting and different classes you could take for electives.

We came across this statue artwork thing.

There is one for each planet and the school’s planetarium is in the middle as if it’s the sun so you can walk the solar system. We didn’t, though.

The main academic buildings are all grouped together. You can’t get them all in one picture.

We didn’t go into any of these buildings but they’re all classrooms and house different programs. They have three buildings for biology; one that is classrooms, a field house and a greenhouse. If Katy is really serious about this we need to make a second trip and meet with the biology department and see what they really have.

So I mentioned that our tour guide was really good. We did go into one of the bigger lecture rooms. She asked each student by name why he or she picked each major (which she remembered) and for the undecideds, what they were thinking. One boy said he had a lot of interests and just hadn’t narrowed it down yet. She asked Katy why she wanted to major in biology. Katy said she loves animals, plants and genetics and thought biology would give her a broad thing to pick from. One of the parents asked the guide what she is majoring in and why. Business I think, she wants to go into the Air Force. She also gave advice on where to live. Freshmen who live more than 30 miles from campus or have fewer 30 hours dual enrollment (which really makes them a sophomore) have to live on campus the first year. There were two potential transfers in the group and she suggested they live off campus. She said most students move off campus after freshman year.

We also visited the library. The first floor is study rooms but you can’t get into them from the first floor lobby. You have to go upstairs, through the metal detectors, then downstairs through a back door. And I guess you get out the same way. We went up to the second floor where the circulation desk is and we went into a room behind the circulation desk. And saw this:

The picture is looking down from the second floor to the first.

This is an automated retrieval collection. A student puts in an electronic request for a book and a robot finds the bin and puts it where the librarian can to get it. I think. You can’t tell in the picture but the drawers on the top are bigger than the ones on the bottom as the books are categorized by size as well as author or subject so you can better fits books into the drawers. This is the library of the future. Doesn’t do much for browsing the stacks but you sure can cram in a lot of books and no problems with books being mis-shelved never to be found again.

That about hits the highlights.

A visit to a dorm wasn’t a part of the tour, that would have meant loading up on a bus — we didn’t see the fitness center and gyms for the same reason — but we could go tour it. Because SOAR was going on they were doing continuous tours as part of that. So we drove over to one the halls where they have a model suite and joined the incoming students. We didn’t look through the whole dorm. There was a lobby right by the side door and the model room.

All of the rooms at these colleges have the same basic design and furniture. What I love is the bathrooms. They have actual cabinets and drawers and most rooms have double sinks!

We saw a two-bedroom suite, which is two private bedrooms, a living area and a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave.

This room sponsored by Coca-Cola (I don’t know why it needs a sponsor) and that’s a deck of Coke cards on the coffee table.

One bedroom and beds can be lofted.

This bathroom was actually from one of the dorms at Armstrong but they’re exactly the same. Cabinets!

The young man answering questions was very helpful. He said you can use Command Hooks or Velcro or something adhesive to hang items on the wall but you can’t use anything that makes a hole in the wall. He admitted that he uses thumb tacks because the hole is so small you can’t see it. Laundry is included in your housing fee.

The lounge area.

The school also has traditional dorm rooms with the one big room with two people and a bathroom down the hall. I told Katy if you have a shared bathroom down the hall, housekeeping cleans it, if you have a suite or apartment with your own bathroom, you clean it. And there are apartments with full kitchens, as well. There are lots of really nice options but after freshman year most students move off campus.

So that was end of that tour.

We asked Katy what she thought. She said Georgia College was stilll the favorite with Berry and Statesboro tied for second.

As for me, I like Berry the best mainly because I really like the campus culture, it’s what I would like for her to have for a living experience. Georgia College is probably my second. Statesboro would be my second if it had a little more campus life, I think. I think I like the campus and town better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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