Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recruiting season begins

This week begins the annual freshman recruiting season for PandA. Those of you that have been through the process will remember it well: the phone calls from Dr. Staib (still doing our recruiting after all these years!), the visit, the scholarship exam, lunch with faculty and the department tour.

Between now and the first week of March we will host perhaps 40 prospective students and their parents. Not all will choose to attend JMU. Our job is try to convince that they should be here. The range of research options and opportunities for getting involved in the freshman year is central to our pitch. We are the place to be in Virginia.

The university is continuing the Madison Achievement Awards (MAS) and the Second Century Scholarships and the department continues the Presidential and Gordon Scholarships. Altogether we have about 14 scholarships total to award! Given the size of our typical freshman class, this means that nearly 1/2 of the freshman class will be on scholarship. This is an amazing ratio.

We're looking for the best and brightest for in-state and out-of-state (the MAS are targeted to out-of-state students). The number and quality of applicants in recent years have make a clear impact on our program. These scholarships are having a clear effect. This year we will continue on this path of growth and improvement.

In the histogram at the right is distribution of the number of graduates from undergraduate only physics departments in the US for the 2009-2009 school year. This data is the most recent was collected by the American Institute of Physics. The largest department graduated 30. In 2010, we graduated 21. This growth and the steady improvement in the quality of students (both due, in part, to the number and quality of scholarships we have to award) mean we are slowly but surely on track to be one of the very larges undergraduate physics departments in the country.