A year after its launch, UF’s Innovation Academy has made significant changes to its program and plans to continue developing.
One of the prominent changes is a new application procedure that requires an additional essay and makes it clearer that students are applying to the program.
Previously, applying to Innovation Academy meant simply checking a box indicating interest in the program. If students who checked the box were admitted to UF, they were automatically placed in Innovation Academy.
Students like David Nassau didn’t find out about the program’s Spring-Summer schedule and required innovation minor until after they were accepted.
“That’s been the main complaint,” the 19-year-old UF Innovation Academy sophomore said. “People didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.”
Students applying for the 2014-2015 school year were given the option of applying to UF traditional programs, Innovation Academy or both. If students gain admittance to both programs, they will be able to choose which offer to accept.
Although changing the application process meant that Innovation Academy received fewer applicants this year, director Jeff Citty said he thinks the change will increase the program’s quality.
This semester, the curriculum has also expanded to include majors such as computer science, engineering and digital arts and sciences.
Citty said his staff doesn’t choose the program’s majors. Rather, colleges offer to participate if there is enough staff to run courses on the Spring-Summer model.
With more majors available, students have more classes to choose from during the Fall semester. Although they are not allowed to take classes on campus in the Fall, students starting next year will be able to choose up to 12 credits from a selection of about 160 online classes — up from the 40 offered last semester.
However, for some students, the program’s format has been difficult.
Justin Nelson, a 19-year-old UF freshman in the program, said it seems like a waste of time.
“If we’re part of the Innovation Academy,” he said, “we should feel like we’re part of something bigger.”
To help students adjust, staff moved into a new office on the third floor of the Infirmary at the beginning of the month. Students now have their own academic adviser and a team of student ambassadors that they can go to for support.
Danna Regnier, a student ambassador and a 21-year-old UF finance and information systems sophomore, said the program will thrive once it has time to mature.
“While there are struggles, there are lessons,” she said. “We learn to grow as UF students in a rough way, but it gives us more of an edge in competition in the days to come.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 1/27/2014 under the headline "UF Innovation Academy program undergoes changes"]