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New College of Florida
Motto Innovative, Inspired, Intellectual, Involved
Established 1960
Type Public
Endowment 45+ million
President Gordon E. Michalson
Faculty 87
Undergraduates 785
Location Sarasota, Florida
Campus 144 acres (.59 km²)
Colors Blue and White

New College of Florida is a public liberal arts college located in Sarasota, Florida. Composed of 87 faculty and about 800 students, New College is known for its high academic standards, narrative evaluation system, and its focus on independent research and student-driven curriculum. Founded originally as an innovative private institution, it is now an autonomous honors college of the State University System of Florida.[1]


Distinguishing academic features

Four core principles form the base of New College's academic philosophy: (1) each student is responsible in the last analysis for his or her own education, (2) the best education demands a joint search for learning by exciting teachers and able students, (3) students' progress should be based on demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades, (4) students should have, from the outset, opportunities to explore in depth, areas of interest to them. To the end of putting this philosophy into practice, New College uses a unique academic program that differs substantially from those of most other educational institutions in four key ways: [2]

  • Narrative evaluations: at the completion of each course, students receive an evaluation written by the instructor critiquing their performance and course work, along with a satisfactory/unsatisfactory/incomplete designation. Letter grades and grade-point-averages are not used at New College.[3]
  • Contract System: at the start of each semester, students negotiate a contract with their faculty adviser, specifying their courses of study and expectations for the semester. At the completion of the term, the academic adviser compares the student's performance with the requirements defined in the contract, and determines whether the student has "passed" the contract, or not. Among other requirements, completing seven contracts is a prerequisite to graduation.[4]
  • Independent Study Projects: the month of January is reserved for independent projects at New College, when no traditional courses are held. Independent Study Projects run the gamut from short, in-depth, academic research projects to internships, lab work, and international exchanges. Students are required to complete three independent study projects prior to being graduated.[5]
  • Senior Thesis: each student is required to write an original and lengthy thesis in their discipline, and to defend it before a committee of at least three faculty. Depending on the area of concentration of each student, a senior thesis may take the form of an original research paper, performing and documenting a scientific or social-scientific experiment or research study, or an original composition. This requirement is usually completed during the final two semesters of a student's fourth year.[6]

The academic structure described above is implemented through classes and research projects in a diverse array of subjects in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Natural Sciences. With fewer than 800 students, an average class size of 18 and a student to faculty ratio of 10 to 1, the academic environment is small and intimate and known for its intellectual intensity.[2]


A site at the terminus of the drive through the historic, western portion of the New College campus, circa 1963

Originally conceived of during the late 1950s, New College was founded in 1960 as a private college by local civic leaders for academically talented students. Financial assistance was provided by the Board of Homeland Missions of the Congregational Christian Church[7] George F. Baughman served as the first president from 1961 to 1965.[8] Envisioned as a new attempt at liberal arts education in the South East, the core values of the freedom of inquiry and the responsibility of the individual student for their own education were to be implemented through a unique academic program.[9] Open to students of all races, genders, and religious affiliations, New College opened its doors in 1964 to a premier class of 101 students.[10] [11] Faculty members included the historian and philosopher, Arnold J. Toynbee, who was lured out of retirement to join the charter faculty.

By 1972, New College's ranks had swelled to more than 500 students and it had become known for its teaching-focused faculty, its unique courses and curricula, and its fiercely independent and hard working students. As the 1970s progressed, although New College's academic program continued to mature, inflation threatened to undermine the economic viability of the institution. By 1975 the college was $3.9 million in debt and on the brink of insolvency, and the University of South Florida (USF) expressed interest in buying the land and facilities of the near-bankrupt college in order to establish a branch campus for the Sarasota and Bradenton area. [11][12]

In an unusual agreement, the New College Board of Trustees agreed to hand over the school's campus and other assets to the state, at the time valued at $8.5 million, in exchange for the state paying off its debts and agreeing to continue to operate the school as a separate unit within the University of South Florida, (USF). The agreement stated that New College was to receive the same funding, per-student, as other programs at USF. The New College Board of Trustees become the New College Foundation, and was required to raise money privately to supplement the state funds in order to reach the total necessary to run New College, at the time about a third of New College's $2 million a year operating budget. Under the agreement New College was re-christened the "New College of the University of South Florida", USF started a Sarasota branch program that shared the bay front campus, and the schools began an uneasy relationship that would last for the next twenty-five years.[11][12] New College and the University of South Florida through its Sarasota campus would share a campus until August 28, 2006, when a new campus opened for USF Sarasota-Manatee.[13]

As part of a major reorganization of Florida's public education system in 2001, New College severed its ties with USF, became the eleventh independent school in the Florida State University System, and adopted its current name, New College of Florida. [14] As part of its establishment as an independent university, the University of South Florida was directed to relocate its facilities away from the New College campus and did so in August 2006.

Today, as Florida's independent honors college, New College retains its original distinctive academic program, while enjoying the benefits and accessibility that being a public university afford. Along with a group of other selective and innovative public liberal arts institutions, it is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

New College Student Alliance

The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) is New College's student government organization. Many decisions relating to student and campus events, academic decisions and policies, the allocation of funds, and recently, the revision of the campus master plan, and the building of new dorm complexes are influenced by the opinions of the student body via the NSCA. "Towne Meetings", held monthly in Palm Court, are the main forum for public debate and are open to all students, faculty, and staff.

The NCSA Constitution states that the purpose of Towne Meetings is "to inform the student body of the actions of the NCSA, to gather opinions and ideas from the students on matters of concern to the College community, to propose and enact informed legislation, and to confirm Presidential appointments to NCSA positions as necessary." Students are welcome to make announcements and address the community with important issues at this forum, and call for motions on the issues they present. Typical Towne Meetings consist of 60 to 200 students, with 50 being quorum.

The NCSA constitution is also known for articulating the whimsical nature of the student body. For example, article 11 states that:

11.1 The New College Student Alliance shall embrace the following symbols: a) [ ] as Mascot b) Palm Court as the Center of the Universe c) Our Motto: 'There is more to running a starship than answering a bunch of damn fool questions" d) Our Mission: "That the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder! That we should not settle for less!"[15]

The NCSA cabinet consists of a President or two co-presidents, Executive Vice President, Vice President of Student Affairs, Vice President of Public Affairs, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Foundation and Alumnae/i Representative and Archivist.

External rankings and reviews

Religion Professor and President Gordon “Mike” Michalson lectures to students during a class in 2003

External rankings at New College are a relatively new phenomenon, because during the school's twenty-five-year affiliation with the University of South Florida and prior to gaining independent accreditation in 2004, New College was ineligible to be included in most ranking surveys.

In 2007, New College tied for first place in the US News and World Report rankings of the twenty-two public liberal arts colleges in the United States, up from third place in 2006.[16] New College was ranked 86th out of all public and private liberal arts colleges, up two places since 2006.[17]

The 2007 edition of The Princeton Review named New College the best value in public higher education, up from sixth place in 2006.[18][19] New College was also ranked 2nd in the August 2006 edition of High Times magazine's article "Top 10 Counterculture Colleges." Additionally, the 2006 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges named New College one of the nation's forty-five "Best Buys" in higher education, marking the third time that New College has been included among the guide’s elite list of “Best Buys” since 2004.[20] New College of Florida is listed in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives.

New College also is known for its record number of Fulbright fellows. According to a list compiled in November 2005 by the Chronicle of Higher Education, New College ranked 21st out of the 30 top Fulbright producing bachelor's institutions, and ranked third when adjusted for per capita percentage, closely behind Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna.[21] New College has produced thirty-one Fulbright fellows during the past thirteen years, and thirty-five since the school's inception.[22]

In addition to New College's successes within the Fulbright program, New College students and faculty consistently have earned a number of other prestigious accolades, including Rhodes Scholarship, British Marshall Scholarship, Harry S. Truman Scholarships, Morris K. Udall Scholarships, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, Carnegie Junior Fellowships, Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship, Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Gates Cambridge Scholarships.

New College is consistently ranked in the top 5 for "Gay Friendliest Universities" according to the Princeton Review. In 2008, New College was ranked #2 in the country.[23]


Seen here in a photograph from 2003, Palm Court is located in the Pei Residence hall complex and is the center of New College student life.

New College's 144-acre bay front campus is located in west Sarasota, Florida, approximately fifty miles to the south of Tampa. Situated between Sarasota Bay and the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, the college lies within a public educational, cultural, and historic district that includes the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Asolo Theatre. The primary campus is located on the former Edith and Charles Ringling estate.[24] The campus also includes portions of The Uplands, a residential neighborhood that is bounded by the historic bay front campus to the south, Tamiami Trail to the east, Sarasota Bay to the west, and the Seagate property to the north.

The campus's most remarkable structures are its three Florida 1920s boom time, grand-scale residences, the former home of Edith and Charles Ringling (today called College Hall), the former home of Hester Ringling Landcaster Sanford (today called Cook Hall), and the former home of Ellen and Ralph Caples (today called Caples Hall). The well-appointed structures date from the early to mid-1920s, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and are similar in style to the adjacent John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and their residence, Cà d'Zan. Today, these gracious homes are used as classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices and their expansive properties provide sites for the modern developments on the bay front campus.[25]

The campus is also home to several examples of high modernist architecture designed by I.M. Pei. These buildings include a complex of student residences known as "Pei", a cafeteria, and a student center. The other dormitories are Dort, Goldstein, and Palmer B. Five new dormitory buildings have been opened in the 2007–2008 school year, with the most recent opened in October 2007. They are currently referred to as V,W,X,Y, and Z. Naming donors have not been completely set in stone for most of the buildings, but the largest building, "Z" has been named by the Pritzker family. They have donated several times to the college, including a library reading room and Marine Sciences building; "X" was recently named in honor of Ulla R. Searing.

In 2005, a long range campus master plan was developed through public workshops held by the design teams from the Folsom Group of Sarasota, Moule and Polyzoides of Pasadena, California, Harper Aiken Partners of St. Petersburg, Florida, Biohabitats Inc. of Canton, Georgia, and Hall Planning and Engineering of Tallahassee, Florida. Extensive participation by the students, faculty, administration, residents of the community, and staff members of local governmental agencies was a major feature of the workshops.


A small liberal arts college bringing together specialists from a diverse array of fields, New College emphasizes research involving interdisciplinary collaboration and independent study.

One such example is an innovative art conservation research study conducted by physicists Mariana Sendova, Valentin Zhelyaskov and recent alumnus Matthew Ramsey at New College and chief conservator Michelle Scalera at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art marked the inauguration of formal collaborations between the long-time neighbors on Bay Shore Road. With Dr. Sendova's major scientific research grant from the Department of Education to establish an on-campus High-Resolution Raman Spectrography laboratory for the non-destructive analysis of rare objects d'art, this unprecedented partnership between a world-class art museum and a nationally-renowned public liberal arts honors college is a landmark testament to New College's commitment to complementary research.[26]

Starting in 2007, and currently ongoing, New College has been working with Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. LRRI and NCF have established a joint bioinformatics partnership to provide faculty and their students research opportunities in the emerging fields of systems biology, bioinformatics and computational biology.[27]


New College's graduates are relatively few in number, about 4,000, although New College alumnae/i are considered to be anyone who has attended the college for any length of time, regardless of graduation status. They are dated from the year they entered rather than when, or if, they are graduated. For example, a student entering New College in 1985 would be considered to be part of the "Class of 1985." A plurality of alumnae/i live in Florida, but large clusters of alums gravitate to San Francisco, Sarasota, New York City, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Boston.

Among the most prominent New College graduates are president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York William Dudley; U.S. Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart; professor of law and director for Cumberland School of Law's Center for Biotechnology, Law, and Ethics David M. Smolin; mathematician and Fields Medalist William Thurston; drug policy activist and MAPS Founder Rick Doblin; and singer-songwriter Jaymay.

See also


  1. ^ "About Us (Fact Sheet)". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  2. ^ a b "The New College Academic Program". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  3. ^ Michalson, Gordon E. (2002). "The Case for Narrative Evaluation: Promoting Learning Without Grades". Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  4. ^ "New College Admissions: The Academic Contract System". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  5. ^ "New College Admissions: ISPs (Independent Study Projects)". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  6. ^ "New College Admissions: The Senior Thesis Project". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  7. ^ A Brief History - New College of Florida, The public liberal arts honors college for the state of Florida
  8. ^
  9. ^ Terte, Robert H. (July 24, 1961), "New College due in Florida in '64; Privately Endowed School to Be Open to All Races", The New York Times: Page 21, 
  10. ^ "News Notes: Classroom and Campus", The New York Times: Page E7, March 1, 1964, 
  11. ^ a b c "New College Catalog: What is New College of Florida". New College of Florida. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  12. ^ a b "Innovative Florida College Saved From Bankruptcy by Ex-Trustees", The New York Times: Page 28, January 26, 1977, 
  13. ^ USF Sarasota-Manatee - New Campus
  14. ^ Klein, Barry (May 11, 2001), "The New College try", St. Petersburg Times: Page 1A, 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "US News & World Report Ranks New College Nation's #1 Public Liberal Arts College". New College of Florida. 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  17. ^ "America's Best Colleges 2007: New College of Florida At a glance". US News and World Report. 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  18. ^ "The Princeton Review: America's Top 10 Best Value Colleges". The Princeton Review. 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  19. ^ ""New College Named Nation's #6 Best Value in Higher Education: Princeton Review Ranks New College Ahead of Princeton, Grinnell and UNC Chapel Hill"". New College of Florida. 2005. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  20. ^ New College of Florida - Liberal Arts
  21. ^ New College of Florida - 2004 Sarasota Reading Festival
  22. ^ New College of Florida - Seven Fulbrights in 2007
  23. ^
  24. ^ New College
  25. ^ NCF .edu, Ringling
  26. ^
  27. ^

External links

Coordinates: 27°23′01″N 82°33′36″W / 27.383590°N 82.560046°W / 27.383590; -82.560046



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