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Eckerd College’s tagline is “Think Outside.” Simple, but there’s no more perfect way to describe what Eckerd’s approximately 2,000 students do every day. Yes, this St. Petersburg, Fla., college is located on a lush and expansive waterfront campus (with its own beach!) that may seem like a holiday-in-waiting for those used to Midwestern weather. But Eckerd students do plenty of thinking, growing and learning. After all, Eckerd is one of the 44 Colleges That Change Lives, and they take their mission seriously, albeit with a generous side of sunshine. Here are a few special aspects of Eckerd!

Autumn Term.

Before classes begin, incoming first years and transfer students come for Autumn Term – three full weeks when they have the campus, faculty and advisors to themselves. Not only are they able to acclimate to campus before starting Fall Term, but they also take a class that helps them ease into college-level academics. The professor students have for this class will be their first mentor/advisor, and the cohort will stick together and have this same professor for the required Fall Term course called Human Experience. In addition, each cohort has a sophomore student volunteer who attends the Autumn Term course alongside them and acts as their guide at this time and for the entire first year.

Mentorship and advising.

Eckerd’s academic advisors are known as mentors and all faculty are required to demonstrate their commitment to mentoring students to secure tenure (the CLTC entry on Eckerd says that this is more important than research). Once an Eckerd student declares their major, they acquire a new mentor in that discipline. In addition, Eckerd’s career advisors like to meet with new students right away, and even freshmen can take advantage of Eckerd’s career mentor program, where they are paired with an Eckerd alum to help them learn more about their fields and find opportunities for experiential learning.

Distinctive academic offerings.

Eckerd keeps its curriculum innovative, with some intriguing requirements and unique academic offerings. 

  • In addition to the First Year Experience course, all Eckerd students must take a course called Imagining Justice to graduate. 
  • In 2023-24, Eckerd introduced a new minor, Interdisciplinary Problems, that students of any major can complete. It requires a core course focusing on methods for interdisciplinary learning, addressing big-picture issues (such as the rise of AI, or food insecurity) from multiple perspectives (ethical, business, policy, etc.).
  • Eckerd offers musical theater students a unique 2+2 BFA in partnership with Circle in the Square, the only professional theater conservatory housed in a Broadway theater. audition for Circle and then attend Eckerd. Students must audition for Circle and apply to Eckerd, and can start the program at either location.
  • A well-funded study abroad program offers hundreds of options, and most students take advantage. A popular time to go abroad is during Eckerd’s 3.5-week Winter Term, or just after the end of the Spring Term. Students can go abroad multiple times and to different countries. Faculty teach semester-long courses at Eckerd’s London Study Centre and also in Seville.
  • Eckerd’s Marine Science program is one of the strongest in the country, particularly for undergraduate research. Eckerd students have the opportunity to present research at national marine science conferences and their “lab” is often a boat.

Waterfront recreation, learning and service.

The aforementioned beach, covered in white sand, is just part of Eckerd’s geographic allure. Students can recreate – and also continue to learn – at the waterfront, where with their student ID, they can check out sailboats (certification is offered), paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, windsurfers and even everything they need to go water skiing, wakeboarding, fishing or on a nearby camping trip. They can also take watersports classes. Eckerd also runs the country’s only college maritime rescue team, training student volunteers to work closely with agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard and 911 Emergency Medical Response to answer more than 500 maritime distress calls each year.

If you want a transformative education with plenty of mentorship, unique academic offerings and all that the Gulf Coast waterfront offers, four years under the sun at Eckerd College might be right for you!

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