The University of Scranton was named among 50 Fittest Colleges in America, new Active Times study reveals
SCRANTON — College isn’t just a place for casual hookups and basement parties. It’s not even just a place for getting a decent education, either. It’s where young people go to become well-rounded, said Dave Martin, director of athletics at The University of Scranton.
“People think that you go to college just for an education,” Martin said. “You come to college to prepare yourself to live the rest of your life.” And at The University of Scranton, they’re unarguably feelin’ themselves when it comes to being on point with preparing students for their future, especially after making a national list for being among the most fit students in the country.
In August, The Active Times named the Jesuit college one of the 50 Fittest Colleges in America. The school ranked No. 44.
The University of Scranton is one of only four Pennsylvania colleges to make the list. Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, ranked No. 33. Gettysburg College, in Gettysburg, placed No. 15. Penn State made the top 10, scoring the No. 9 spot.
Weekender visited U of S campus recently to meet with students and faculty to find out what made the local college a fit above the rest.
‘THIS IS WHAT WE DO’
Several factors were taken into consideration when it came to ranking the fittest colleges in America. The Active Times reported on their website that sources such as the Princeton Review were used to examine campus dining, student happiness, and participation in recreational activities, both varsity and club or intramural. The University of Scranton has 18 varsity Division III athletic teams and 14 club sports that range from traditional sports, such as basketball and soccer, to equestrian and crew. The school offers 22 intramural leagues coverings 14 sports, such as flag football, basketball and Ultimate Frisbee.
What’s more interesting than offering an ample variety of recreational activities is the level of participation. More than 3,000 students annually participate in recreational sports and intramurals at The University of Scranton, out of roughly 4,000 total undergrads, Martin said.
“There’s a culture that’s in place. This is what we do. We want to educate the whole person. Physical education is just as important as what is learned inside the classroom. Living a healthy lifestyle, and balancing that with hard work, is a lifetime activity that students can take with them far after their chosen career path. And we get students that understand that,” Martin said.
Jessica Strassle, from New Berlin, New Jersey, participates on the dance team, a club sport. She feels an absence of Greek life on campus is responsible for her school being named among the most fit.
“Not having fraternities and sororities, people bond over sports instead of through partying or other not-healthy activities,” Strassle said. “I still socialize just like any other college student, and go out with my friends, but instead of organizing parties and other social events, we focus more on working out and practicing for games.”
Balancing the hectic schedule of an undergrad with working out is challenging, but students like Colin Millard, from Long Valley, New Jersey, make it a priority.
“I make it a daily routine,” Millard said. “I know I’m finished with class at a certain time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I rush to the gym right after. I try to get here as early as possible, because it’ll get crowded here. It’s part of the lifestyle we all have here.”
CUSTOMER VS. PRODUCT
College isn’t what it used to be, said Janice Winslow, director of recreational sports and women’s tennis coach. She says higher education is more expensive than ever.
“Colleges across the country are looking at students as consumers more than ever,” Winslow said. “People want to see what they can get for their dollar. We’re attracting students interested in fitness. Prospective students come on campus and see a new fitness center and the dining hall. If they’re into fitness, that appeals to them. They’re going to go to the place where they get to do the things they want to do.”
In 2012, The University of Scranton opened a 14,000-square-foot fitness center inside the new Pillarz Hall, a $41 million investment that seems to have paid off, Martin said. The fitness center has 48 pieces of Cardio equipment, 26 pieces of Cybex weight machines, free weights, and a multi-use CrossFIT station.
Winslow says The University is always open to new things, especially when it comes to recreational activities.
“Ten years ago, we had kids say they wanted an Ultimate Frisbee team. So we started one,” Winslow said. “We build off what students are interested in. For our intramural teams, we never cap our teams. We even go around their class schedules and what works best for them.”
That catering spirit is prevalent when it comes to providing students with a healthy diet, said Joseph Boyd, director of operations for Aramark Food Services at the university. He said the food service team strives for restaurant food quality and service.
The school’s dining service features a salad bar, a fresh fruit bar once or twice a week, and a balance of healthy options with some good old-fashioned soul food.
“We’ll have the cookies and the chicken nuggets available, but the students will also have the choice to have something healthy with that. They can have a salad or a piece of whole fruit, like a banana or a peach or a pear,” Boyd said.
Sarah Weidmann, from Wayne, appreciates the menu provided by Aramark.
“I came to college worried about the freshman 15,” admits the first-year student. “But there’s always a healthy option. Even when there’s pizza, I’ll just add a salad or a vegetable.”
Students may not have to worry about the freshman 15 with the variety of recreational activities and dining options available. They’re fit and it doesn’t look like they’re going to quit.
Reach Justin Adam Brown at 570-991-6652 or on Twitter @wkdr