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Getting Smarter All the Time: The Freshman Class

by Greta Petry (September 12, 2003)

This fall’s entering freshman class is the strongest academically that Director of Admissions Robert Andrea has seen since he joined the University at Albany four years ago.

The class, made up of 2,100 traditional freshmen, was drawn from 17,316 applicants. With an average high school GPA of 90 and mean SAT scores that were 15 points higher than last year’s, the class is scholastically talented. There are 200 Presidential Scholars in the incoming class, compared with 173 last year, and more than 100 College Scholars, up from 87 last year.

“Our focus remains on improving the quality of the entering class. This class is much stronger on the top end,” said Andrea, who said the word is getting out about UAlbany’s increased selectivity. His words are backed up by the rising numbers of top students in the freshman class. A full 94 percent of the class is in Groups I and II, the highest selectivity criteria set by State University of New York System Administration. This compares with 87 percent last year. As of mid-August, more than 625 students from Group I (as determined by high school GPA and SAT scores) were expected to enroll, an increase of 11 percent from last year.

UAlbany continues to make a targeted institutional investment in merit scholarships for high-achieving undergraduates by increasing the dollars committed to these students over the last 10 years. Two new honors programs in women’s studies and public policy have been introduced to keep top undergraduates challenged. These programs allow the students to work with senior distinguished faculty on self-designed, interdisciplinary honors projects whose product may be a thesis based in part on a related internship or similar field experience.

In addition to strengthening scholarships for undergraduates, the University has worked hard to improve stipends for doctoral students in order to stay competitive with major public research universities across the nation. Targeted funds for specific programs have achieved measurable results in terms of recruiting and retaining quality doctoral students.

One of the elements of attracting and retaining quality students is providing a physical environment conducive to learning. Every student who has taken a class in recent years in one of the rooms on the first floor of the Humanities building or in the lecture centers can appreciate renovations that were completed this summer. Students also benefit from a separate project in which new furniture and window treatments were installed in all suites on Indian and State quads.

Classroom renovations are the result of a long planning process kicked off last fall. The Space Management Office, in conjunction with the Facilities Office and the Office of the Registrar, prepared a conditions assessment of the 92 Registrar-scheduled uptown classrooms and 18 downtown classrooms. They documented the quality of lighting, the condition of flooring, and the age and comfort of seating, and prioritized a list of instructional spaces for renovation. The immediate focus was on the most heavily used rooms: the Lecture Center and Human ities classrooms, which account for more than 50 percent of class section enrollment. Within those buildings, six Lecture Center rooms and 21 Humanities rooms – accounting for more than 25 percent of class
section enrollment – were targeted for summer renovations and improvements. This $1 million project is part of a multi-year commitment by President Karen R. Hitchcock to improve instructional spaces across the University.

A welcome sight for returning students and faculty alike, the first floor of Human ities has been renovated. Human ities classrooms have been painted, with larger tablet desks and chairs, an attached basket for books, new lighting, and new window treatments. The desktop is a durable graphite, and the chairs have a flexible seatback. Gone is the old carpeting, replaced by gleaming white tile edged in black. Colorful purple tiles at the floor corners match the acoustical fabric that covers the walls. Three of the renovated Humanities rooms, HU 124, 128, and 129, are “smart classrooms,” equipped with multimedia equipment that includes a new sound system, instructor computer, and VCR. In addition, the hallways have new flooring, ceilings, and lighting.

In the Lecture Center classrooms, match ing black chairs replace the old assortment of blue, orange, and brown; the carpet has been replaced with a complementary, heavily stain-resistant design; and some ceilings have been replaced. Light gray tabletops in the LCs have been replaced by a darker graphite. The seats have a 10-year warranty. So far, LC 1, 2, 20, 21, 24, and 25 have been redone.

“The amount of dedication, coordination, and hard work from all those on the project has been incredible,” said John Giarrusso, director of the Office of Space and Capital Resources Management. “From the coordination necessary to reschedule summer classes out of these rooms, to meeting with student representatives to help choose the seating styles, to the finishing touches by the talented staff in the Uni versity shops, this project is one of which the entire renovation team can be proud.”

“As we continue to improve our facilities by updating and renovating the Human ities building and the lecture centers, these are all ways to enhance that first impression for students who come here on a campus visit. In addition, the renovations will contribute to a positive undergraduate experience,” Andrea said.

 

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