A state-of-the-art residence hall, inviting study spaces, cutting-edge academic programs, a completely updated fitness center, new labs, the U.S.’s leading food-service provider added to the JU team — and some words of wisdom from an Apollo moonwalker. Not a bad way to start the year for incoming freshmen and returning students.
More than 500 Jacksonville University freshmen matriculated this past weekend, hearing from JU President Tim Cost, Provost Dr. Wenying Xu, Past President and Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne and Apollo 15 commander Col. David R. Scott, among others.
“Our newest students couldn’t be joining the JU family at a better time, with tremendous improvements and upgrades to our campus, our programs and our prospects,” Cost told students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni gathered on the Science Green Saturday, Aug. 22. “The Class of 2019 is an amazing combination of talent, ambition and potential. It is smart, engaged and accomplished, and today we become connected.”
Incoming freshmen hail from 27 states; the District of Columbia; U.S. territories Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; and 10 foreign countries, including Brazil, the Bahamas, Canada, Cameroon, China, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Nigeria, Sweden and Venezuela. There are 128 student-athletes, or more than a quarter of the class, and almost 30 active-duty military, veterans or their dependents. The most popular majors are Pre-Nursing (55), Biology (31), Marine Science (31), Business Administration (30), Aviation Management & Flight Operations (27) and Kinesiology (27).
Scott, whose wife, Mag Black-Scott, is a JU alumna and Trustee, was the first person to drive on the moon, and one of only 12 to walk on it. He praised JU for its vision, momentum and close-knit community.
“You are going to have a wonderful faculty here; they will have a lot to advise you on, and a lot to offer, so pay attention to them,” he said in his keynote message. “Thank you for joining our JU family. It’s a great family. You have a wonderful opportunity here, and it will be a tremendous adventure.”
Many upgrades have occurred in recent months to enhance the educational and social experience for new and returning students:
- The new $12 million North Hall, a 274-bed, three-wing residency designed with the idea of community development for students, both socially and academically, is now open. Kitchenettes; classrooms; and study, game and community spaces dot each floor. High-tech amenities include fiber-optic communications, CAT-6 wiring and cell phone range extenders. The student-to-RA ratio of about 25-to-1 is half that of typical residence halls, to provide more of the personalized attention that is a hallmark of a private university.
- Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of new equipment and labs are now ready for students in the Swisher, Nelms, Reid Medical and Merritt Penticoff science buildings as part of the $120 million ASPIRE comprehensive campaign.
Aramark, known throughout the world for providing superior quality, has joined JU’s team as the chief provider of all food, facilities and grounds services.
- A completely revitalized Nelms Plaza collaborative outdoor study area is now open as part of a $250,000 project, offering cabana-style seating, canopied lounge areas and charging stations.
- The Nimnicht fitness facility in Davis Student Commons is newly refurbished, with all-new cardio and strength training equipment in partnership with Life Fitness.
- The 2,300-square-foot Alexander Brest Museum and Gallery in the Phillips Fine Arts Building is newly renovated and suitable for installation, video, 2-D and 3-D exhibitions. In addition, a state-of-the-art Neve soundboard is being installed for students in the Department of Music.
In addition to facilities upgrades, JU is also known for its world-class, dedicated faculty who offer personalized attention, said Kinne.
“So many of our former students here at JU, who keep in touch with me, they say, over and over, ‘Your school helped me to select the thing that I can do the best,’ ” she told the students. “Each of you has a different DNA, and if you haven’t found it, you can find it here, and you’ve got plenty of wonderful faculty members to help you.”
With a new year ahead, Scott encouraged the students to soak up all the advice and information they could as they ponder their futures.
“Keep an open mind,” he said. “I’m reminded of an old aviation adage: The mind is like a parachute: it only functions when it’s open.”