Stetson University Ranked 23rd in Nation for Service, Research, Social Mobility

Contact Cindi Brownfield
University Marketing

A national rating system that focuses on how well colleges and universities contribute to the public good in the areas of service, research and social mobility has selected Stetson University in DeLand as the top-rated four-year school in Florida. Stetson is ranked No. 23 nationally in Washington Monthly magazine’s “Top 50 Master’s Universities” for universities with bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

The ratings, released this week at, rank colleges and universities in five different categories – Top 30 National Universities, Top 30 Liberal Arts Colleges, Top 50 Master’s Universities, Top 50 Community Colleges and Top 50 Baccalaureate Colleges.

“At Stetson, our students are working to prepare themselves to be active, engaged members of their communities, leaders who can take rigorous academic theory and use it to solve the practical challenges of life,” said Dr. Greg Sapp, the Hal S. Marchman Chair of Civic and Social Responsibility and associate professor of religious studies. “The Washington Monthly‘s national ranking of Stetson recognizes the wonderful work our students do in the community and Stetson’s commitment to supporting them.”

The magazine describes its guide as “a different kind of college ranking” – one that values recruitment and graduation of low-income students, cutting-edge scholarship, community service and graduates making a positive difference in the world. The rankings are based on data including how many alumni go on to serve in the U.S. military and Peace Corps, how many hours students volunteer in their community, how many graduates go on to earn doctorate degrees, how many students are low income (receiving the federal Pell Grant) and how many scholarship dollars are linked to service. More than a third of Stetson students are first-generation college students.

“Colleges and universities do as much to shape the future as any institutions you can think of,” the magazine said. “They conduct cutting-edge research that drives economic growth, provide upward mobility to people of humble birth, and mold the characters of tomorrow’s leaders.”

Stetson has a strong commitment to service learning and civic engagement through its academic courses, and many student organizations provide service to the community through extracurricular activities. Students, faculty and staff typically provide more than 100,000 hours of service each academic year.

“Too often ‘academic’ is equated with ‘irrelevant.’ At Stetson, we work to make students’ academic preparation relevant by providing opportunities for them to see the theory come to life in the engagement of their community while they are taking courses,” Sapp said. “Seeing academic theory in practice tends to help students understand the theory at a deeper level and also allows them to apply the theory in more than one context. Our goal is for our graduates to become engaged members of their communities having a positive effect on those communities.”

Through service learning within the university’s academic program, faculty members involve their students in the community to address real-world problems. Student outreach includes counseling low-income entrepreneurs through the CHOMI Microcredit program, studying invasive species in Blue Spring, running a deliberative democracy campaign, and implementing community youth programs based on residents’ needs. At the College of Law in Gulfport/St. Petersburg and Tampa, all students do pro bono service.

The university also has hosted a number of conferences, including the Bonner Summer Leadership Institute in 2009, and has been selected to host the 2011 IMPACT Conference, a national conference focusing on service, social justice and advocacy, next spring.

Through a partnership with the philanthropic Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation of Princeton, N.J., Stetson supports an active Bonner Scholars program that involves undergraduates in service learning, community engagement and leadership training. Stetson is the only Bonner school in Florida.