Undergraduate students of the Unification Theological Seminary’s Barrytown College experiment spent Friday, May 1st touring the oceanside campus of the University of Bridgeport and getting a full spectrum of presentations and opportunity to dialogue on course offerings, transfer requirements and first-hand insights into life in the city of Bridgeport.
“From what I saw, I am ready to go to school there. The student facilities were impressive, and the atmosphere was very professional and relaxed at the same time”Dachul Okamoto, 25
In March, the students were advised that transfer to another school would appear necessary since federal financial aid for students at Barrytown College was denied by the U.S. Department of Education in December of 2013, but students had never been informed. Dr. Hugh Spurgin, president of Unification Theological Seminary, promised students that he would get personally involved with helping them to transfer either to the University of Bridgeport or any other college of their choice. Eighteen of the twenty-two student have applied to U.B. Spurgin gave the group a personal tour of the campus and of the neighborhood, including Bridgeport International Academy, which he has administered for 18 years.
“From what I saw, I am ready to go to school there. The student facilities were impressive, and the atmosphere was very professional and relaxed at the same time,” said Dachul Okamoto, 25 who also observed: “The Mass Communications Major seems like a unique program that I feel will fit well in this media driven society.” Okamoto has produced some short films at Barrytown College and is planning a course of study at the University of Bridgeport that will be media related, he said.
“I will be transferring to UB, and I am excited to start in Dr. Ward’s IPED (International Political Economy and Diplomacy) program,” said Andrew Stewart, 28. “I really prefer the rural feel that Barrytown has, because I have lived in cities my whole life, but I can live with the return to cities. I also have good housing arrangements worked out, so I am in good shape for the transfer,” he added.
The students began with a guided tour of the media arts studio at U.B. by Prof. Peter Van Geldern, who explained, “We are an education community saturated with young people who want to learn. You can study public relations, advertising or news reporting.” Van Geldern pointed out that U.B.’s high-definition cameras and video equipment were superior to what many TV stations are using.
Dr. Thomas Ward, Dean of U.B.’s College of Public and International Affairs, gave an overview of the programs offered by the university. “Reverend Moon wanted to see a university that would work with the United Nations,” he told the Unificationists.” “Our College of Public and International Affairs is built around the purpose to prepare people for careers in public service, and it is inspired by the Founder’s vision.” Ward advised the group that any course that they had completed at any previous accredited college with a grade of “C” or above could transfer to UB. In addition, the students could start with a clean slate, since the credits would transfer but not their grades. However, he said that, when applying to graduate school, previous transcripts would be reviewed but this did give a chance to start anew and affirm their potential.
We are not trying to shape what people think here, but we are trying to inspire them to think creatively and critically. Dr. Neil Salonen, President, University of Bridgeport
Dr. Neil Salonen, President of University of Bridgeport, spoke to the student visitors over lunch and introduced other faculty, staff and students. “We are not trying to shape what people think here, but we are trying to inspire them to think creatively and critically,” he said. Although a small percentage of the student body is from the Unificationist community, many of them excel in leadership on campus, he explained. “We find that each year the Unification students at UB get elected to student government, and it’s no secret, because often they are the ones willing to do the thankless tasks.”
The faculty members who introduced themselves to students included Prof. Robert Riggs, Chair of the Religion and Politics department and an expert on the Middle East. Riggs, who is not a Unificationist, said the faculty prides itself on assisting students through mentoring and creating professional experience. “We will do our best to find you internships and professional opportunities,” he said. Riggs also gave the Unificationists on campus high marks for productivity.” “Honestly, many of the best and brightest students at UB have been Unificationists. The talk behind closed doors of faculty includes pleas from some of the professors for more students like the Unificationists.
At the end of a long day of shuffle and gab, the students took a walk on the beach facing Long Island Sound and weighed the opportunities open to them if they transfer to the University of Bridgeport