Hire Education: DeVry University [Crystal City magazine]
by Hope Katz Gibbs
Crystal City magazine
A short climb up a tiled staircase leads to the second floor campus of Crystal City’s newest resident, DeVry University. But bring your track shoes. This indoor campus encompasses 82,000-square feet and is filled with so many high-tech toys it will make even the most seasoned tech-head want to stay after school.
WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A COLLEGE, many teens and their parents’ dream of buildings covered in ivy, a school filled with fraternities, sororities, and football teams that shine at college bowl time. But others look for a different kind of dream—especially those who could rebuild a toaster at age 10, spent their high school years in front of a computer monitor, and can’t wait to find out what the next new thing will be.
For them, the high-tech nirvana of DeVry University has long been a top pick; previously, they had to travel to one of the school’s 26 campuses somewhere else in the county. But in the fall of 2001, the Crystal City campus opened, and within months, more than 500 students were registered. Since then, enrollment has steadily increased.
A walk around the brand tech-enabled campus helps to understand why. Nearly all of the classrooms are equipped with more computers than a Gateway store (Gateway, Dell, Cisco, and National Instruments supply DeVry with most of its equipment). DeVry also has “smart” wireless classrooms, where each student and faculty member can plug in their own laptop and log onto the Internet during class.
“From the moment our students begin their studies, they start to work with computers and other equipment they’ll eventually use when they land their first job,” explains Loretta Franklin, president of DeVry’s Crystal City campus.” We believe in starting to prepare them for the real world from day one. We don’t wait until the sophomore or junior year to give them hands-on experience.”
DeVry’s faculty won’t tolerate rowdy teenage antics, either.
Our students study in a simulated corporate environment, and they quickly learn what it feels like to be a professional,” Franklin adds. “When they leave us, they are prepared to join the workforce.”
The no-coddling concept seems to be popular with area families from Baltimore to Richmond. School administrators expect to fill the new Crystal City campus with more than 2,100 students in the near future. The 18- to 24-year-olds are the university’s core market, but DeVry is also popular with people who are already employed.
“Today’s business environment is very competitive, and a growing number of professionals are finding the need to beef up their technology skills, or acquire new skills, just to keep their jobs,” explains Franklin, noting that when DeVry merged with the Keller Graduate School of Management in 1987 it began offering masters degrees in accounting,
financial management, and other fields.
In fact, Franklin says the school has a working relationship with many area firms such as the FBI, NASA, the CIA, Cisco Systems, ADT, AT&T, Oracle, and Unisys. Because Crystal City is located within a few miles of many of those companies and agencies, opting to locate there was the sensible choice.
“Crystal City has its own metro station, the VRE stops here, and parking,” she explains. “There are also restaurants and shopping areas for our students and faculty to enjoy. We are very pleased with our decision to make Crystal City our new home.”
IN THE BEGINNING
Seventy-two years ago, two inventors founded the school in Chicago. They were Herman DeVry, who in 1912 invented the first home-movie camera-a 25-pound gadget that he called “Movies in a Suitcase“—and Lee DeForest, the inventor of the vacuum tube for radio.
They started a program called the DeForest Training School; within a decade, it became so well known that the U.S. government selected it to educate its Army Air Corps instructors about new electronic devices.
Then, in 1953, the school expanded. It changed its name to the DeVry Technical Institute and started opening more campuses—including one in Toronto, Canada.
By the late 1960s, the school was renamed again as the DeVry Institute of Technology.
In 1981, it received accreditation from the North Central Association—a first for proprietary education. A decade later, DeVry Inc. became a public entity selling stock at $10 a share. Later, DeVry merged with Keller and became an official university in 2002. Based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, it is one of the largest private post-secondary education systems in North America with more than 56,000 students studying its curriculum in 18 states and two Canadian provinces.
“The school’s growth reflects the need for a tech-savvy workforce,” says John Giancola, dean of academics at DeVry’s Crystal City campus who has been on the staff of DeVry for the last 30 years. “Just look at the statistics.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce predicted last year that by 2006, nearly half of the U.S. workforce will be employed by industries that are either major producers, or intensive users, of information technology (IT) products and services.
Already, IT industries account for more than one-third of America’s economic growth. Even though there has been a dip in the high-tech industry, statistics show that technology jobs pay up to 78 percent more than jobs in other sectors. The Commerce Department believes nearly 2 million new skilled IT workers will be needed to meet the projected demand by 2008.
“Times may have changed since DeForest and DeVry founded the school in the 30s,” Giancola says. “But there’s still a real demand for people to get a solid technological education.”
THE COMPETITIVE EDGE
Naturally, DeVry strives to attract top students in the region. Last summer, the school helped high school juniors and seniors from the Virginia region get a jump-start on their careers by offering a six-week tuition-free Summer Scholars program. Students, who were recommended by their guidance counselors and principals, had to have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Through this program, they took technology and business classes and earned up to five college credits.
“The classroom interaction gave students the opportunity to enjoy a little of the college experience while learning subjects such as digital technology and design,” says DeVry professor Seddik Benhamida. “But the time spent in the lab each day constructing, testing, and analyzing circuits and using test instruments is when the real fun began.”
DeVry works to give a helping hand to students in need of a little financial boost. In addition to its Dean’s and Presidential Scholarships, DeVry University offers Community Scholarships each year worth $3,000 to one student at each of the 40-plus public high schools in the region.
These students are required to be pursuing a degree, and can get up to $9,000 for the duration of their program of study. The program is available at all of DeVry’s 26 campuses, and in total represents an investment of more than $4.5 million.
“The program is intended to help meet the national challenge of ensuring access to higher education for students who may not be able to afford it,” explains Franklin, who before becoming president of the Crystal City campus was the dean of DeVry University’s Alpharetta, GA location.
This is not a scholarship for “the usual suspects,” Franklin notes. “The valedictorians and star athletes are aggressively pursued by other colleges and universities and have many options,” she says. “This scholarship program wades deeper into the pool of qualified students to find those who maybe finished a little farther down in the class, but have the academic ability to succeed if given the opportunity.”
Sometimes, Franklin says, just having the opportunity to attend college is what students need. Once they are in the door, keeping them in school becomes the focus, so the rules are strict. If a student misses five consecutive classes, he is dismissed from the program. There is also a dress code—no torn jeans or sloppy tee shirts are allowed.
The goal, Franklin explains, is to make sure students and faculty look their professional best.
“At any time, an executive from, say, IBM could walk into a classroom looking for an intern,” Franklin advises. “And, they have. We want to make sure everyone at DeVry looks and acts his best so he can take advantage of every opportunity. After all, that’s what we’re here for.”