University of Rochester

Rochester Offers Unusual Incentive to get Students Online

May 28, 1997

The University of Rochester has initiated an innovative scholarship program to lure ever more of its 4,600 undergraduates onto the World Wide Web. The new ResNet Scholarship will provide free summer housing in University residence halls -- a roughly $1,300 value -- for up to 10 students who work with professors during the summer to bring the Web into the classroom. Five Rochester undergraduates who will be creating online course materials this summer have already been awarded free housing.

Rochester is already one of the most Internet-friendly campuses in the nation: The most recent issue of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine ranked the University 24th on its list of America's Top 100 Most Wired Colleges. Rochester undergraduates have hopped online at twice the national average, attracted by amenities such as student e-mail accounts, home pages, and newsgroups, unlimited Web access, a unique online library catalog inaugurated in February, and access to transcripts and account balances. The University continues to add features, hoping to attract fully 80 percent of its students to the Net in the not-too-distant future.

"We've invested several million dollars over the past few years wiring our residence halls so students can access the Web from their rooms," says Logan Hazen, Rochester's director of residential life. "Now we need to make sure there's ample reason for students to want to get online. One of the best ways to do that is by posting online information that students want or need to know."

Hazen says 34 percent of eligible Rochester undergraduates already access the Net from the comfort of their own rooms. The University hopes to attract even more by fostering the posting of course information on the Web and by encouraging professors to experiment with new academic uses of the Web, such as Web-based course assignment systems and course-related Java-based tools.

Sophomore Steven Lewis, a member of the first batch of ResNet Scholarship recipients, will spend this summer building a computerized classroom for a course called "Physics by Inquiry," to be offered next spring.

"I definitely couldn't afford to stay in Rochester this summer without the ResNet Scholarship -- I'd probably be doing senseless work at home instead," says Lewis, a computer science and religion student from Greene, N.Y., near Binghamton. "This programming experience will come in handy later on, and that's part of the reason why this scholarship is such a major opportunity for me."

In the "Physics by Inquiry" class, geared toward students in the social sciences and humanities, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Frank Wolfs illustrates important physical concepts with examples familiar to most students, such as a space shuttle blasting off or a car crash involving safety dummies. Students analyze the physics of these phenomena using computers.

"Unfortunately, the programs now available for such analysis are either too complex for these students to use, unavailable for them to use outside of the classroom, or can only run on one type of computer," says Wolfs. "Steve Lewis will spend this summer developing new Java-based software tools that will be available on the course home page, allowing students to work in the comfort of their own rooms, independent of the platform they use."

In addition to Lewis, the other 1997 ResNet Scholarship recipients are sophomore Melissa Guyre of Verona, N.J., juniors Margaret Astorga of Chula Vista, Calif. and Thomas Nichols of Ballston Spa, N.Y., and senior Seth Krostich of Great Neck, N.Y.

Faculty members interested in nominating undergraduates for this year's ResNet Scholarships should contact Hazen in the Office of Residential Life.