The Positivity and Power of Personal Touch

JU, a High-Touch and High-Teach University

January 29, 2018

To our Jacksonville University community:

Now that we’re several weeks into the Spring semester and energy is building on campus for another memorable semester, it’s worth a moment to appreciate the high-touch, high-teach environment that, together, we’re building at Jacksonville University.

We live in an era when our nation's largest retailer features no storefronts (Amazon). The national transportation leader doesn't own any cars (Uber). One of the world’s largest information sources (Facebook) owns no printing presses. The leading hotel business in the U.S. and abroad (Airbnb) doesn't own any buildings. And online schools and colleges annually confer tens of thousands of degrees upon students they never see.

That’s the culture we live in today: speed, access, convenience, customization.

Jacksonville University has a strong culture all its own, where we believe in our extraordinary student body and our dedicated faculty. Our students are talented, smart, creative, skilled, and fearless, and we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know them, observing their patterns and preferences, and analyzing other 18- to 24-year-olds like them.

In fact, JU has access to recently conducted research on thousands of individuals from this undergraduate age group. The insights we’re gaining as a result are fascinating and demonstrate the importance of our commitment, as an institution, to excellence, personal connections, and positivity.

According to recent studies, this generation will experience having half its eligible members graduate college. The generation preceding them graduated at only 33 percent, and graduates before them at an even lower percentage. As a University, we are in the business of developing, equipping, inspiring, and challenging young people as they stand on the precipice of a career or further education—and possibly a life path that will lead them to become employers, entrepreneurs, influencers, industry leaders, and world changers.

Understanding these students, inside and out, is a critical first step to guiding them through their college years.

Studies show that students are becoming increasingly demanding in their quest for information, and their attention is much more intensive as they get better at processing more and more data. Roughly eight of 10 prefer to multitask with as many as five devices simultaneously. Phones, iPads, laptops, televisions, and smart watches, for example. For the larger part of their existence, from age eight onward, they've had access to or owned these devices. Approximately 88 percent admit they do the bulk of their course-required research online. In addition, more than 30 percent watch YouTube daily to teach themselves something. This same generation also admits to being online nine hours per day. Minimum.

Lastly, and of great interest to me as a university president, 45 percent of incoming freshmen that we've surveyed have expressed a feeling of overload based on their experience in high school. This is how they’re feeling and how they’re operating before ever stepping into higher education.

Jacksonville University remains committed to a highly personal, positive, and flexible approach to learning. Our 14-to-1 student-faculty ratio and students’ direct access to faculty members continues to make an impact. At undergraduate orientation each fall, I’m happy to offer my personal mobile number to students. Our faculty members offer personal contact information in every syllabus and maintain generous office hours. Our newly launched Faculty in Residence program enables a resident faculty member to build relationships with first-year students and work more closely with Residential Life. Dr. Ramesh Adhikari, assistant professor of physics, and his family now live in North Hall mentoring, tutoring, and advising.

This dedication to making a personal difference in the lives of students runs deep on this campus, and springs from our core values as a university: persistence, optimism, respect, teamwork, positivity, excellence and service to others. Student engagement, inclusion, and feedback matters here. We’re committed to standing beside students from the first time they tour here until the day of Commencement, and all the moments in between.

A question well worth asking: is there more we can do? Another way to engage with our faculty and students. An innovation that brings deeper meaning to the JU experience.

The answer, of course, is always yes.

There is always room for progress. This is why feedback from students, faculty, parents, alumni, and staff is a vital part of helping us reach higher and connect more fully. Your willingness to share ideas is important, both to our leadership team and the future of our University. Our incoming students already have my number and email, and they are communicating — ideas, questions, recommendations. I hope you’ll do the same.

Thank you, and here’s to another great Spring semester.

Tim Cost
Jacksonville University
Class of 1981