Campus Attractions at Florida Atlantic University
By Florence Beth Snyder
When Florida Atlantic University was conceived in 1961, the Sunshine State’s entire population was a scant five million, and it already had a University of South Florida.
But FAU’s founders foresaw an epic population boom coming soon to really south Florida. They resolved the region would have a university of its own, and one worthy of the motto “Where Tomorrow Begins.”
Today, there are more than five million people just in South Florida and six FAU campuses serving 30,000 students representing 140 countries and all 50 states.
The original campus is in Boca Raton on the site of what used to be an Army air base at the south end of Palm Beach County. FAU is a burrowing owl sanctuary, and the beer-can-sized symbol of wisdom serves as the university’s mascot.
For more than half a century, FAU’s acclaimed University Theater has tackled the most beloved Broadway musicals, the fastest-paced comedies from the West End, and the most challenging works in the catalogues of Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekov. A seven-show season of crowd-pleasing theater and dance can be had for a pleasing price.
FAU is expanding its performing arts portfolio with the recent additions of Theater Lab and Living Room® Theater.
Theatre Lab is a professional resident company that serves as an incubator for the development and production of new theatrical works, as a classroom and showcase for students, and as an unusual opportunity for audiences to participate in shaping works in progress. The Lab’s Play Slam is built around readings of scripts in development. Afterward, cast members, directors and playwrights talk to each other — and to the audience — about what worked, and what needs work.
FAU’s Playwrights’ Forum brings prominent writers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman to the Lab to present public lectures and provide students with workshops and master classes.
Living Room® Theater is the second of its kind in the country, and the only one located on a college campus. Designed by and for movie mavens, Living Room® Theater features films that are taking the festivals from Sundance to Cannes by storm. There’s no waiting in line for overpriced popcorn; patrons instead may savor freshly prepared tapas and adult beverages while waiting for the lights to go down and the curtain to go up in the all-digital auditorium.
On Wednesdays, the 7 p.m. film — usually an advance screening of an upcoming movie — is introduced by an expert, and the audience is cordially invited to stick around for a lively post-film debriefing.
FAU boasts two art galleries, The Ritter and The Schmidt. Each presents as many as six exhibitions during the academic year, along with art-related lectures, panel discussions, poetry readings, film series and music performances. It’s all free and open to the public.
The Potters Guild is a student organization with a cult following among people who love the ceramic arts. The Guild sponsors workshops, lectures, social activities, exhibitions and sales which attract savvy shoppers looking for that one-of-a-kind gift.
FAU’s physicists welcome visitors to join them at the Astronomical Observatory’s public viewing sessions. As NASA astronaut Steve Swanson will tell you, FAU is a great place to reach for the stars. Swanson, an FAU alumni, visited the high heavens in the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2007, and two years later was a member of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s crew.
Open houses at the Observatory are regularly scheduled for the first Friday and third Tuesday of each month, and the Owls especially enjoy extending hospitality to the public whenever there’s an event of “particularly special astronomical significance.”
The idea of bringing adults whose curiosity didn’t end at graduation together with college professors who never tired of teaching was a novel one in 1980, when FAU formed a “Society of Older Students.” The concept became very popular, very fast, and today you can find “Lifelong Learning" programs on campuses all over the country. FAU’s attracts over 25,000 non-degree-seeking adult learners, and occupies its own 500-seat venue.
The Barry and Florence Friedberg Lifelong Learning Auditorium was specially designed with wide aisles and other features which make the facility hospitable to all. Internationally renowned speakers add extra spice to the Society’s regular roster of master teachers drawn from the FAU faculty and other area institutions.
Also worth a look: A history of railroad pioneer Henry Flagler, on three concurrent video screens in the main auditorium at the College of Business.
FAU Stadium is the only place on Earth where you can take in a football game and a view of the Atlantic Ocean at the same time. The 30,000-seat facility opened in 2011 and features 32 loge boxes and 24 suites, and is home to the annual Boca Raton Bowl and the Florida Launch, a professional lacrosse team.
When you go…
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Rd, Boca Raton, Fla. 33431