Class of 2020 brings “vision” for the future
August 19, 2016
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When John Mellencamp sang: "They come from the cities / And they come from the smaller towns / Said goodbye to their families / Said goodbye to their friends..." he could very well have been singing about Slippery Rock University's Class of 2020.
The Class of 2020 - all 1,584 of them - brings a cadre of fresh faces from 21 states, the District of Columbia and 16 foreign countries.
Among the many newcomers will be Kelly Ruder, a freshman communications major from Roseville, California. She has the distinction of traveling the farthest domestic distance to reach SRU. Her trip to western Pennsylvania will clock in at more than 2,400 miles.
"My cousin attended Grove City College and I heard about SRU through conversations with her and my aunt," said Ruder. "I was in the ninth grade at the time, so I wasn't really thinking about college at that time, but when it came time to start my search and I began filtering out what I was looking for, SRU kept popping up and I liked what I saw of the programs and campus life."
Ruder, who is reentering the educational stream after taking a gap year, is focusing on a career in print or web design, and looks forward to the challenges of being a "city mouse in a country setting."
"I'm excited for the chance to try something new," she said. "I've lived in the city my entire life. Moving across the country - and into a country-like setting - will get me out of my comfort zone and shake things up. That's what college is all about, taking chances and venturing out."
Ruder spent her gap year venturing through the South as she performed volunteer service work in four states with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. The youngest of three children, Ruder logged time in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina providing public and recovery assistance for flood victims.
"Volunteering has always been a passion of mine," she said. "My parents had AmeriCorps experiences, so I wanted to follow that route as well. I'm looking forward to getting to campus and joining a variety of clubs and being able to make a difference in Slippery Rock as well."
Ruder is part of an incoming freshman class that represents a picture of positivity for the University. The incoming cohort has increased 3.2 percent (27 students) compared to last year according to numbers released Aug. 12 by SRU's Division of Enrollment Management.
In addition, SRU has seen increases in students ranked in the top 25 percent of their graduating class (36.4 percent compared to 35.3 percent); overall GPA (3.39/3.30); and GPA of 3.0+ (81.8 percent/80.7 percent).
According to Amanda Yale, associate provost of enrollment management, much of the categorical increases can be traced to SRU's academic programming.
"The upward trajectory that we are seeing can be credited to our having academic programs that are both marketable and look like they will produce jobs for our students," Yale said. "Students' families are very interested in the connection between what I can do with a major in a particular area of study; they're not asking for a philosophical answer, they're asking 'What does this lead to in terms of opportunities afterwards, either in terms of careers or grad school?'"
Five of the more popular programs with the Class of 2020 include: biology (+42 students over 2015), criminology and criminal justice (+25), math (+14), public health (+12) and communication studies (+10).
Additionally, Yale pointed to SRU's 4+1, 3+2 and 3+3 programs as initiatives that make a difference. SRU offers those "plus" options in a variety of fields including: biology, chemistry, dance, exercise science, psychology, public health, recreational therapy and safety management.
"As much as we love education at SRU, the University is becoming recognized for much more than our historical background in that field," said Yale. "Not only in terms of the programs we offer, but, based on the feedback we're getting from students and their families, the extras we have to offer in regard to the co-curricular experiences with our Living Learning Communities, study abroad and student/faculty research opportunities and the ability to take active leadership roles through the many student organizations and community service projects."
SRU's Class of 2020 enters college this fall as part of the "right now" generation, according to Ron Nief, director emeritus of Beloit College Public Affairs; Tom McBride, professor emeritus of English at Beloit; and Charles Westerberg, Beloit professor of Sociology, who together publish an annual "College Mindset List," identifying key attributes of the class.
"This fall's entering college students, the class of 2020," they note, "were born in 1998 and cannot remember a time when they had to wait for anything. They also can't recall a time when the United States was not at war, or when someone named Bush or Clinton was not running for office.
"In their lifetimes they have always had eBay and iMacs, and India and Pakistan have always had the bomb. The Sopranos and SpongeBob SquarePants have always been part of popular culture, Gretzky and Elway have always been retired, and Vladimir Putin has always been in charge in the Kremlin."
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