Although its reputation as a party school precedes UCSB, those of you tired of friends’ and relatives’ jokes will be happy to learn that the university is highly competitive academically. Feel free to cite the following points to those Facebook and MySpace groups that claim otherwise.
Besides being home to the most beautiful student body in the country – after all, Playboy Magazine named the university as the #2 party school in the nation in 2006 – UCSB is also home to one of the most intelligent student bodies. In its latest ranking of American universities, U.S. News & World Report placed UCSB 44th among all universities in the country and 13th among public universities.
Between the College of Letters and Science, the College of Engineering and the College of Creative Studies, UCSB offers nearly 100 undergraduate majors in fields ranging from hard sciences to social sciences to visual and performing arts. The most popular major, aside from the freshman favorite “undeclared,” is business economics, followed by biology, psychology and communication. A large number of students also choose the relatively new global and international studies program, which has been growing steadily since its establishment in 1999 and is now home to over 500 students.
Even with such a range of academic programs, UCSB has not chosen quantity over quality — unlike you and your 200 Facebook-only friends. Several undergraduate departments, as well as many programs on the graduate level, have received national recognition for excellence.
UCSB’s Religious Studies Dept. is the best in the UC system and among the top programs in the nation. Students majoring in this field study not only religion but culture and language as well. This department is also great for non-majors who are interested in learning about world religions. Courses on Eastern religions like Buddhism are some of the most popular — and most packed — on campus.
The environmental studies program at UCSB is also known for taking a fresh perspective. One of the first in the nation, the department was created as a reaction to a major oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969. Students study the relationship between humans and the natural world and consider ways to preserve the environment while still allowing for development and progress.
One of the great things about attending UCSB is the availability of research opportunities for undergraduates. College of Engineering Dean Matt Tirrell said he estimates that about 25 percent of undergraduate engineering students conduct research during their time at UCSB. In addition to providing the direct benefit of additional insight into the topics they are studying, Tirrell said students who do research also benefit from personal connections with professors.
“Close contact with undergrads in this way puts me in a very good position to advise them about choices they might make for coursework, career opportunities, etc.,” Tirrell said. “[I am also able] to write knowledgeable, persuasive letters of recommendation for them.”
Professors at UCSB represent the best and brightest in their field. Five faculty members have won the Nobel Prize – three in physics and one each in chemistry and economics. UCSB faculty members have also won a number of other prestigious prizes, most notably Shuji Nakamura, a professor in the College of Engineering, who won the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize for his work with new light sources, including a blue laser. Additionally, College of Creative Studies Literature professor Barry Spacks is the Santa Barbara Poet Laureate.
Education Abroad Program
For students looking to expand their educational horizons beyond Santa Rosa Island, the Education Abroad Program offers half- and full-year programs in 34 countries worldwide. All programs offered through EAP are compatible with UC requirements, meaning units will transfer easily and may even be applicable to GE or major requirements. According to Cassandra Nattrass, a recent UCSB graduate who studied abroad in Germany and Chile and now works for EAP, a semester abroad can add another dimension to a student’s understanding of their coursework.
“EAP academics can give students a completely different perspective on their field of studies,” Nattrass said. “EAP chooses the top of the top in foreign countries as host institutions. There’s really no good reason not to go abroad.”