Which college is home to where the speed of light was first measured and where the first controlled nuclear reaction occurred? The University of Chicago’s physicist Albert Michelson measured the speed of light and became the first American scientist to win the Nobel Prize, while physicist Enrico Fermi controlled the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory underneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at UChicago. This prestigious school has produced 92 Nobel laureates, 275 Guggenheim Fellows, and 25 Pulitzer Prize winners.
Founded in 1890, by John D. Rockefeller, the University of Chicago is in Hyde Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Despite being located in the third largest city in the United States, the University of Chicago’s entire 217-acre campus is a botanical garden. The school uses a quarter-based academic calendar and maintains a 5:1 student to faculty ratio, which provides small classes with discussion-style seminars.
The University of Chicago is ranked #6 for 2021 Best National Universities according to U.S. News and World Report. This private, liberal arts school is home to 6,306 undergraduates and is well known for its core curriculum that teaches students how to think and debate complex ideas as well as how to approach problems from multiple perspectives. Admissions is highly selective with only 6% of applicants accepted, including Heath Stanfield (’20), who plays varsity soccer for the Chicago Maroons. Heath shares his unique perspective of beginning college during a pandemic and shares advice for student-athletes who want to pursue college sports.
Congratulations on being a recruited college athlete! Could you please describe your recruitment process during high school for student athletes hoping to continue their sport at college?
Heath: For the recruiting process, it’s really just about emailing coaches and asking them to come watch you play. The more coaches you can reach out to the better. If they can’t see you play in person you need to typically have both film and highlight tapes in order to show them, and then you have to hope that they like you. You also want to play at the national level for a club sport to get the most exposure. I didn’t even contact the coach at UChicago. He just happened to see me play at National League at the ESPN complex at Disney.
You’ve excelled at soccer and academics, and have obviously mastered organizing your schedule. What tips do you have for time management at college?
Heath: For time management, it’s all about just planning out your day and deciding beforehand how much time you have to do work, and what work can you get done during that time. You want to strive toward a goal that way, but if you run out of time just do it the next day. It’s always best to start a good few days before the assignment is due, and get it done a day before so you can check it over just before turning it in.
What has been the greatest challenge and the biggest surprise for you while at college?
Heath: The greatest challenge so far has probably been the 14-day quarantine I had to endure upon my arrival to campus. I basically could only leave my room to do laundry, throw away trash, and other essential things. Not being able to go outside during that period was very tough as well. The biggest surprise is probably just how well UChicago has been doing to keep Covid-19 cases down. After the first three weeks there were only about 10-20 cases total.
What adjustments have you had to make for Covid-19 while at UChicago?
Heath: Well, there are a lot less people on campus. The dining halls are essentially all take-out so you either have to hope it’s a nice day or eat in your room. Masks are worn everywhere, of course. In general, there are just precautions taken all over campus in order to slow the spread, which personally I really appreciate even if it does mess up the college experience.
Since high school students are currently limited to virtual tours of colleges, could you please take us on a tour of the UChicago campus and share your favorite places?
Heath: The Nuclear Energy sculpture is about 100 feet from my dorm, and is the site of the first self-sustained nuclear reaction, which is super cool. All the buildings in the Main Quad are built in this beautiful Gothic architectural style, and all the grass and trees just make it a serene setting. The Eckhardt Research Center is a super cool modern building just across the street from the Nuclear Energy statue. It is the center for molecular engineering research and classes on campus, and I really look forward to spending a lot of time there in the next couple years. The Mansueto Library is a glass dome. The top floor is only study spaces, but deep under the ground is a library that you can access by requesting a book, and a robotic arm will shoot down and grab the book, and bring it up to the surface for you to pluck right off the shelf.
What attributes of UChicago made it your top choice?
Heath: It is one of the greatest academic institutions in the country, and in the world. It also provided me the opportunity to compete for a national championship at the highest level of Division III soccer.
When it comes to your coursework, how much more difficult is it from high school?
Heath: I chose to take difficult classes, but it still hasn’t been too bad compared to the course work I had at Casady. Math is just a little bit more proof based, which is always going to be difficult.
What classes at Casady helped prepare you the most for college?
Heath: I would say that all of my English courses helped prepare me for analyzing literature and writing good essays. The science department prepared me with the foundations I need for college level physics and chemistry. And math really helped, especially linear algebra, for the proofs.
The University of Chicago has a beautiful mixture of Gothic and contemporary buildings designed by some of the most well-respected architects in the world, including Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the Robie House, which is considered one of the most important buildings in American architecture. Students are required to live on campus during their first six quarters and are assigned a house within their residence hall. The thirty-nine distinct houses are all unique communities where students create house mascots and receive academic and social support. In an effort to inspire curiosity, students can check out original works of art from the University’s Smart Museum of Art, including pieces by Picasso and Chagall, to hang in their dorm room for the school year.
The houses compete in traditions including the Chairman’s Broomball Cup and one of the school’s most loved traditions, Scav, a 72-hour scavenger hunt where houses search for clues and items on campus, around Chicago, and even across the country. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Scav was held virtually this school year. Kuvia is a weeklong festival when students awake at dawn for yoga, dance classes, sun salutations, and learn how to row crew. The festival ends with the Polar Bear Run, when hundreds of scantily clad students race across the Main Quad. At the end of the spring quarter, students can participate in Summer Breeze, a festival to celebrate the end of the school year with games, free food, and an outdoor concert.
The official color for the University of Chicago is maroon and their nickname is the Maroons. Their mascot is Phil the Phoenix, named after the mythical bird that is reborn from its own ashes, in honor of the rebirth of Chicago after the Fire of 1871. The Chicago Maroons have 18 NCAA Division III teams, and their football team is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference.
Fun Facts: Former President Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years before he became a member of the U.S. Senate. The University of Chicago has had several movies filmed on campus, including the opening scene of “When Harry Met Sally” that occurs on the quad, and “Divergent,” where scenes of the Erudite headquarters are filmed in the Mansueto and Regenstein Libraries. Go, Maroons!