Admitted Student Day ushers in a new era for New College
Interim President Richard Corcoran addresses the crowd. Photo courtesy of New College of Florida Facebook page.

Admitted Student Day ushers in a new era for New College

New College’s Admitted Student Day is an annual event that provides an opportunity to meet current students and faculty and see what the campus has to offer. With enrollment as one of New College’s most crucial challenges in recent years, the stakes for the upcoming academic year may be quite high. With administrative uncertainty getting national attention, this year’s Admitted Student Day garnered some controversy as Interim President Richard Corcoran introduced some unprecedented changes to campus.  

The Apr. 15 event kicked off with a speech from Corcoran, introduced by Vice President of Enrollment Management Kevin Hoeft. 

“[Corcoran] served as the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, a very influential position,” Hoeft told the crowd. “While there, he led efforts for significant education reform [and] significant transparency in government and a number of other issues that really led the way to bring Florida to where we are today as the top state in the nation. I think he’s a man of vision, he’s a man of action and a man of common sense.”

Corcoran, who served as the Florida Education Commissioner from 2019 to 2022, faced an accusation of bid-rigging after the state education department allegedly altered a bid request to suit MGT Consulting group, run by a Republican lawmaker and personal friend of Corcoran. While investigations proved inconclusive, Corcoran and several other lawmakers resigned from the position.      

As Corcoran addressed the potential incoming class, he stated that “the best education you can get is a liberal arts education.”   

Corcoran illustrated the story of Apollo 11, the project that put the first humans on the surface of the moon. He mentioned “a female scientist with a philosophy degree,” whom he did not name, as the one who figured the problem out. 

Corcoran also mentioned entrepreneur and Apple founder Steve Jobs, who dropped out of Reed College, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who had degrees both in sociology and Christian theology and physicist Albert Einstein, who also had an interest in philosophy.   

The Interim President went on to list some potential benefits of enrolling at New College.

“Thanks to the Governor, and this isn’t a political speech, thanks to the Legislature, Republicans and Democrats, we are getting tens of millions of dollars,” Corcoran said. “So for the next three years, this entire campus will be transforming. Student life as you see it today, as it exists over the next three years, will be a 180-degree difference. All student life will be on [the Bayfront] side [of campus.]”

Corcoran announced some specific proposed changes to student life. 

“We’re starting boys and girls— excuse me, men and women’s soccer, we’re starting men and women’s basketball, and softball and baseball,” he elaborated. ”We’re going to have [an] entire campus life with sports, in the good sense, we’re talking about having camaraderie, adding some Greek life up on 58th St.. All of these things are going to happen because we have these resources.”

The new administration has hired a baseball coach and alluded to increased sports-related activities coming to New College. Communications recently distributed a survey to students and faculty asking for opinion on 16 proposed new mascots, including “Conquistadors” and “Rebels.”   It was not clear who provided the mascot names, but the survey did include a line for write-in suggestions.     

In contrast, this was the first public mention of the proposed introduction of “Greek life” to New College.  

Corcoran ended his speech with a message to prospective students: 

“If you come here, you will not only get a great education, your student life will be second to none and you will be job-ready. If you have a great liberal arts degree, and you’re humble, and you’re willing to work hard, there’s no such thing as that person not being employed.”

The audience then watched a commercial for Apple put out by the late Steve Jobs, celebrating out-of-the-box thinkers.

“What Steve Jobs is saying, you could say about New College,” Corcoran said in reference to the commercial. 

Next was a speech by New College Student Alliance (NCSA) Vice President and third-year Xabier Rezola.

“I felt like New College was a place where I could be challenged academically and pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge,” Rezola said. “It’s amazing the way New College students adapt to the world around them. If there’s one thing that a New College student will learn, it is resilience. Whenever students come across a problem or an obstacle, they’re able to handle the issue and come across stronger in the end.”      

Executive Director of Career Education Dwayne Peterson and Associate Professor of Computer Science and Chair of the Faculty Matt Lepinski followed with a presentation on New College’s unique academic system, including information on the Chart Your Course (CYC) Program, SETSAIL First-Year Seminars and Areas of Concentration (AOCs). This presentation was followed by a panel that included Lepinski, Division of Natural Sciences Chair Sandra Gilchrist, Division of Social Sciences Chair Barbara Hicks and Division of Humanities Chair Maribeth Clark. The panel took questions from the audience about everything from class sizes to plagiarism policies to interdisciplinary courses.    

Some prospective students and parents expressed concern about what effects the administrative changes might have on the curriculum. One potential student asked how the changes might impact available programs and classes. The panel reassured the student that programs are sealed by both accreditation and state law, and that faculty would find a way to ensure that courses meet student needs and interests.  

Attendees then visited different tables showcasing student clubs and campus resources before the event concluded with a campus tour.   

The Catalyst reached out by email to the Admissions department to ask for details about the planning and funding of the event. While Associate Director of Admissions Cliff Lundin initially responded, the request was routed to Communications and Marketing. The response from an unnamed Communications representative stated that 83 students and their guests had signed up as of Apr. 13, with a total of 230 anticipated visitors. This figure was in line with the approximate number of guests present. 

Regarding a question about whether the outreach process was any different this year, Communications wrote that “the outreach process has only been different in that we’ve increased the number of emails, phone calls and texts that we’ve sent out per week. This year, students received multiple invites or points of contact per week. We did the same outreach last year but the cadence was about 1-2 contacts per week.”

Communications stated that financial support for the event came from Admissions, the New College Foundation and additional funding secured by Corcoran “to ensure that this event could reach its full potential.” However, the amount spent on Admitted Students Day was not clarified.

The Catalyst spoke with an incoming student, Bella Croteau, about their decision to attend New College. Croteau heard about New College from a family friend who recommended the school based on their academic and social interests.

“I’m worried about the potential administrative changes as a queer, non-cis person, but not enough to deter [my enrollment],” Croteau said.

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