Eckerd College is distinctive in its commitment to provide students with regular opportunities to learn from persons who have completed distinguished careers in many walks of life, while retaining the usual strengths of a residential, church-related, liberal arts college with an emphasis on teaching, personal attention to students, concern for values and service to others, quality of campus life, rigorous academic standards, a sense of responsibility for our environment, the development of global understanding through study abroad, and balanced attention to both breadth and depth of learning.
The Academy of Senior Professionals (ASPEC) provides students with an opportunity to benefit from intergenerational learning. ASPEC members are retired or semi-retired professionals who come primarily from the professions, e.g. law, medicine, education, government, business, the military, the arts, etc. ASPEC members share their life experiences with students both inside and outside the classroom, taking part in classroom discussions, and as lecturers, mentors, career counselors, and friends.
Autumn Term is the cornerstone of Eckerd's unique version of the traditional school orientation. It establishes the academic expectations and social responsibilities of being a member of the Eckerd College community. Required of all new first year students and available to some transfer students, this three week term occurs before the fall semester begins and the return of the entire student body. Other than upperclass student "activators" to help provide some guidance, the new students have the campus to themselves with the full attention of faculty and staff. Very few colleges and universities can boast of such an academically engaging and comprehensive introduction to college life as what Eckerd provides through the Autumn Term experience.
Beginning on the day of arrival to campus with the Ceremony of Lights, welcoming students to the College, and continuing through the last day of Autumn Term, students will develop the skills to be successful college scholars and citizens. Each student is enrolled in one course chosen from a wide selection of non-traditional offerings that are not available during regular academic semesters. The courses introduce students to college-level writing, oral communication and research. This academic journey includes guidance, each professor teaching Autumn Term serves as the mentor for each student in their class. The mentor encourages students to make the most of the learning opportunities at Eckerd, helps set goals, begins the planning stages for earning a degree in a chosen major and urges involvement in the wide array of campus activities. This partnership is the centerpiece of faculty-student interaction and serves as the foundation of the general education requirements that continue into Human Experience, the writing portfolio, Quest for Meaning and ultimately commencement.
Although academics are the main thrust of Autumn Term, with papers to write, presentations to give, and examinations to pass, there is still a major component that emphasizes the traditional orientation activities like making friends, having fun and getting your fill of fresh squeezed orange juice in the cafeteria. There is even an Autumn Term calendar that outlines the required events like class, but also highlights the myriad of sponsored activities like movies, hypnotists, campus-wide parties, comedians and off-campus adventure.
This exclusively Eckerd approach to the first year experience has garnered recognition and praise from many in higher education. However, it is the students, parents and families that make up the Eckerd community, who appreciate and applaud the effort made to provide the best possible start to the college experience, that matter most.
Learning and teaching at Eckerd College are organized around several interdisciplinary collegia instead of the traditional departments found at most colleges. The collegium concept groups subjects according to the various intellectual disciplines required to master them. For example, learning physics and mathematics requires different skills from learning dance or from learning a foreign language. The collegium concept makes an interdisciplinary approach to the mastery of knowledge both natural and easy to accomplish.
Eckerd College views true knowledge as inherently interdisciplinary and encourages students to learn by integrating the range and variety of information they gain across the curriculum. Students' interests frequently do not fit within a single major or field of study, so they are encouraged to create their own concentrations by combining those studies that will help them achieve particular careers or professional goals.
Eckerd students have opportunities to study abroad for a month, a semester, or a year through International Education programs located all over the world, and at Eckerd's own study center in the heart of London. About half of Eckerd graduates avail themselves of these opportunities to combine travel and education. Approximately 12% of the student body is comprised of students who come from 62 foreign countries, and each year more than 2,500 students come to Eckerd for short periods to learn English through ELS Language Centers on campus. Foreign language study, cross-cultural courses, and the majors in international business and in international relations and global affairs offer students additional opportunities to pursue international interests.
At Eckerd, faculty mentors are much more than faculty advisors. Throughout a student's career at Eckerd, each student has the continuing support and counsel of a faculty mentor who is specially trained to help each student plan an academic program, to help with career planning and with the student's personal growth. A freshman entering Eckerd chooses a mentor from a descriptive list of mentors who lead Autumn Term projects. The student continues with that mentor throughout the Freshman year in at least one course, Human Experience, and student and mentor work together to plan the academic program for the first year. Upon completing the freshman year, each student may choose a new mentor who is a specialist in the student's area of academic interest. Each student and mentor will continue to plan the academic program, including independent and directed studies, internships, off-campus programs, work experience, career planning, study abroad, and other learning opportunities Eckerd offers.
Eckerd places central importance upon student responsibility for living and learning. Students are given many opportunities to make meaningful decisions on matters that impact the quality of life on campus as well as each student's personal academic program. The Eckerd College Organization of Students (ECOS) has been delegated full responsibility for student governance, campus social life, publications, many intramural activities, and clubs organized around shared interests. The residence halls are administered by student complex coordinators and student advisors.
A college education supplies students with a great deal of information, and students gain knowledge by taking in that information, by making the connections, and by understanding the applications across disciplinary lines. But the ability to use knowledge to judge situations, to reach conclusions, and to make intelligent choices and decisions requires that students develop a system of values as part of their learning experience. Eckerd students study the Western traditions that have grown out of the Judaeo-Christian heritage, they study other cultures, and they explore aesthetic, environmental, and political considerations that bear on the moral and ethical decisions they will make throughout their lives. Eckerd College emphasizes learning how to learn, learning what questions to ask, and learning how to evaluate the answers as essential to a lifetime of learning in a constantly changing world.
Overlooking the beautiful Boca Ciega Bay, Eckerd College takes full advantage of its ideal location by offering a Waterfront Program second to none. Nestled on Frenchman's Creek and with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, the Intercoastal Waterway, and Tampa Bay, the Waterfront Program marina facility features a wide range of educational and recreational opportunities, along with a nationally renowned search and rescue team, EC-SAR (Eckerd College Search and Rescue).
Since its beginning in 1971, the Waterfront Program has grown to become one of the largest, most comprehensive watersports programs in the United States. Full-service utilities include a Waterfront Activities Center with staff offices, classrooms, and a rescue control/communications center, as well as a boathouse, support buildings, docks, a ramp, sporting and fishing equipment, and an extensive flotilla of boats (competition and recreation), and many types of support craft. The program also supports and helps facilitate the research efforts of the Eckerd College Marine Science Department on the waters of Tampa Bay.
Today the Waterfront Program is an important part of Eckerd College and remains true to its founding principle: "Education through Service." While providing a reprieve from the rigors of the classroom, the Waterfront Program also provides students with an added extracurricular dimension--a chance to learn lifetime sports and make valuable contributions to the community.