Excitement, nervousness, and anticipation are just a few of the emotions that first-year applicants experience on the University of Florida’s annual decision day. On that big day, UF’s newest Gators find out if they’ve been admitted to the University. New Gators join the Gator Nation via several admissions programs, a hallmark of UF’s inclusive undergraduate program that matches applicants with pathways of UF academic opportunity. These successful and innovative pathways are also some of the most unique and award-winning programs in the nation for students.
One pathway that can only be found at UF is the Pathway to Campus Enrollment (PaCE), the nation’s only blended learning undergraduate pathway program. Launched in 2015, PaCE increases opportunities for new Gators by combining UF’s top-ranked online learning with residential classrooms for just over 50 UF majors. PaCE Gators enjoy greater freedom of movement and lower costs during their first two years in the nation’s #1 online bachelors program, UF Online, and are later guaranteed enrollment in UF’s residential campus classrooms where classes are smaller as they complete their major-specific and upper-division course requirements.
When Cooper Brown received his letter of “congratulations” on decision day, he first needed a better understanding of what PaCE was and how it worked before making the best decision for himself. But Cooper is so glad he did it. After completing his UF classes online, transitioning to UF residential classes, and even becoming the student body president and a Gator grad, 23-year-old Cooper Brown couldn’t be happier with his decision to accept his PaCE offer. “Now that I’m finished, it’s the best decision that I have ever made in my life,” Cooper affirmed.
ACCEPTING THE OFFER; YOU’RE A GATOR!
Like many who receive a UF admissions offer to join PaCE, Cooper wasn’t sure what the program meant for his dream of becoming a Florida Gator. “My initial reaction was that I didn’t get in, but I didn’t not get in,” Cooper said. “It was a weird feeling and I didn’t know what to expect.” Proud to become a Gator, he was thrilled to be admitted to the University of Florida and accepted his offer of admission.
Cooper soon discovered the benefits and flexibility PaCE offered as opposed to his on-campus peers. “I loved being able to create my own schedule. I think that’s one of the best parts of PaCE. I was not upset at all about not having in-person classes.” To Cooper, there are no boundaries that separate fellow students at the University of Florida. “Everyone is a Gator no matter what program you’re in,” Cooper said. “There’s no difference.”
“If you want to attend the University of Florida and you get that PaCE offer, you better take it,” Cooper said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity and if you don’t come here solely because of that, that’s just an opportunity missed out on.”
EMBRACING THE FLEXIBILITY: GETTING INVOLVED
Given that PaCE Gators first start in their online classes via UF Online, they have greater flexibility to get involved on campus. PaCE students can join UF clubs and organizations along with the rest of their peers. Many students find it easier to fit extracurriculars around their online coursework.
“I went about getting involved just like any other student,” Cooper assured. “Just because I was a PaCE student, it didn’t create any barrier for me to get involved. If anything, it was even more helpful because of the flexibility with my schedule.”
Cooper didn’t hesitate to participate in the extracurriculars that interested him on campus. “I got involved in student government my freshman year and I became chair of the budget and appropriations committee my sophomore spring semester,” he explained. “Being in PaCE helped me with that since I had a lot of work to do. PaCE gave me a lot of flexibility to do that and then do my school work at night.”
TRAILBLAZING: ELECTED STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT
As Cooper became more involved in student government, he set his eyes on the position of student body president. “My junior year, I kind of took a step back and realized that this could be an opportunity. I became senate president tempore and senate president my junior and senior years,” he described his journey through student government. “Then I ran my senior spring for president.”
“No one knew I was a PaCE student until I was campaigning,” Cooper said. “I was thinking to myself that being a former PaCE student could be a cool thing to run on since there hasn’t been a PaCE student who has been student body president. That’s when I started to highlight it during my campaign.”
Cooper’s hard work and lofty ambitions all paid off when he made UF history by becoming the first student body president that had earned a spot in the UF PaCE program. Given his Presidency and positive impact on UF as a student leader, Cooper was inducted into the UF Hall of Fame and he will receive the honor of joining the Reitz Union wall that showcases the former student body presidents. The experience has also granted unique and unexpected opportunities for him to carry forward into his career. “It definitely provided me with a vast network,” he said. “Not only of alumni and students I’ve met here but also the stakeholders I’ve gotten to interact with at the university.”
Cooper recently graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Education and Communication with an emphasis in Leadership Development. He is currently pursuing his Masters of Science in Management and will graduate this May before going on to work at Truist in Charlotte. UF Online congratulates Cooper on his historic presidential win and for his incredible achievements with PaCE. We wish him all the luck and success in his personal and professional journey. Cooper, you’re a trailblazer! Go Gators!
EARNING A UF DEGREE THROUGH PACE
Offering flexible and accessible education, the Pathway to Campus Enrollment (PaCE) program enables the University of Florida to invite more students to the Gator Nation. In this unique program, students take UF courses online for the first two years of their education and have the option to either complete their education fully online from anywhere or on UF campus for their junior and senior years. While this digital pathway offers students a 25% reduction in tuition and fewer fees than their on-campus peers, PaCE students can get involved on campus and join UF clubs and organizations. For more information about the PaCE program and what to do if you receive this offer, visit UF Online’s PaCE program page.