Friday, February 3, 2012

Thanks University of Miami!


Thank you to the University of Miami for hosting me and 30+ other counselors on a counselor fly-in program so we could see the campus first hand. We have had an action packed day where we have had a chance to hear from various staff, students, and even President Donna Shalala - and one theme is clear - Miami occupies a niche that is very hard to find. As a private school, with an acceptance rate below 40%, with a student body of 10,000 students, near a city - it is a combination that is very, very, hard to find. Even more impressive is the significant diversity on campus - with around 50% of students identifying as students of color and 20% of students are international. If that isn't a global campus with a diverse perspective, I don't know what is.

In addition, it is one of few selective schools that still offers merit based scholarships and it is also one of few selective private schools that does not ask for the CSS profile. Multiple university staff poked fun at their counter intuitive tendency of offering a staggering amount of options to a relatively small group of students. In other words, for the number of clubs, services, majors, minors, and on-campus events amenities they offer students they should have a student body and revenue stream three or four times their size. But instead, they prioritize an individual student centered approach - willing to spend more money if it means making more students happy.

I was particularly impressed with the presentation by Dr. Patricia Whitely, VP for Student Affairs. She had such a clear passion for working with students and taking a human approach to discipline. Speaking of being impressed, we were lucky enough to have dinner with President Shalala. The photo above is a nod to a story that was shared that embodies her approach to serving the campus. A performance artist installed hammocks on campus and was upset when students were 'sitting' on the art. After hearing this, and after the art installation was over, President Shalala now has hammocks hung up during finals week every semester. On an additional side note, next time you have dinner with her at her gorgeous home, make a special request to have the cake-pops for dessert. They were amazing ;)