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Wise beyond its years

When it started in 1965, the Allentown College of St Francis de Sales offered only bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. In the intervening four decades, the institute has come a long way. After branching out into various disciplines, its claim for a university status could no longer be ignored and on March 1, 2000, Allentown College received official notification from the state of Pennsylvania, US that it would in future be called DeSales University (DSU).

DeSales may possibly be the youngest university in the US, but it has already established its credentials. “DSU is recognised by the US News and World Report as a top tier university for masters degrees,” says Prof. Peter M. Rautzhan, associate vice-president for administration and planning, DSU. “Institutions that offer primarily bachelors and masters degrees are compared and ranked in three competitive tiers. DUS has consistently been in the top tier, it was most recently ranked at 57,” explains Rautzhan.

One of the reputed courses at DSU is its MBA programme. “The university has received funding from the US government agency for Business in International Education for several years. This gives our undergraduate and postgraduate students ample opportunities to apply the skills they learn here in the global business arena in countries such as Peru, India, and Romania,” says Rautzhan.

Arjun Banerjee, senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York and a former student of DSU, is all praise for his alma mater. “The education you get in DSU is all encompassing — from science and maths to philosophy and music. I have been working in New York City for almost three and a half years now and I feel that what I learnt at DeSales has helped me bridge the gap between the two cultures, which is crucial for success in your professional life,” he says. Banerjee did his schooling in India and then followed it up with a dual major in accounting and management of information technology from DSU.

Some of the other graduate courses offered by the university are in education, technology, nursing and criminal justice. Undergraduate and graduate programmes are priced competitively, at or below the state and national averages for private education in the US, claims Rautzhan. A programme could cost anywhere between US$ 30,000 and 40,000 a year at DSU.

An Indian student may find the tuition fee a little steep, however, there is a variety of scholarships / grants and part-time employment opportunities that will help minimise the cost. “To the extent that they can, the administrators at DSU are co-operative and help with financial aid issues,” says Banerjee.

Students from India will also feel right at home in Pennsylvania’s scenic Lehigh Valley where DSU is located because the area has a sizeable Indian population. “Although the adventure of seeking an education in the US is a welcome challenge for many bright and talented students, they do feel homesick. But the presence of a huge expatriate community here provides Indian students studying on our campus the occasional sense of belonging that they may want at festival time,” says Rautzhan.

A major advantage at DSU is its student-faculty ratio. An average class has 19 students. “Since there are so few students, the classes are quite interactive, unlike the impersonal lecturers held in huge halls by teacher’s assistants at other universities. The best thing is that the faculty members are accessible to students even after teaching hours,” says Abhishek Dutta, another former student of the university. “I think that the best thing I took away from here was the relationship I shared with the faculty. Their guidance helped me a lot when facing the real world.”

According to the university, 85 percent of the undergraduate faculty have a doctorate or the highest degree in their speciality.

DSU has a beautiful campus, says Dutta, with good sporting facilities and an extensive library. It also has about 30 clubs and organisations that help nurture students’ interests. DSU also has a ‘University Police’ that provides many services including criminal investigation, motorist assistance, an escort service, a 24-hour victim hotline, self-defence training (RAD) and crime prevention education.

DSU has also registered its presence in India. It currently offers bachelors degrees through a partnership with the DeSales Institute of Philosophy and Religion (DIPR), Bangalore. “This bachelors degree will serve as excellent preparation for students who want to pursue further studies at universities in Europe and the US,” says Rautzhan. DSU also has a special tie-up with the Indian Institute for Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM), Calcutta.

“DeSales University provides an environment where you can focus on academics, the distractions are minimal,” sums up Banerjee.

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