SJU’s Academic Distinction Rises with Class of 2021
The academic talent of Saint Joseph’s incoming first-year class continued its upward trend in 2017 — as did its selectivity, with the acceptance rate again decreasing.
“We are at our most selective point of the last 10 years, resulting in a freshman class with high achievers comprising its largest segment,” says University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. “This is a student profile that reflects the caliber of and demand for an SJU education in a fiercely competitive market.”
The applicant pool was among Saint Joseph’s largest at nearly 9,000 students, according to Robert J. McBride, associate provost for enrollment management. “This growth, combined with an intentional admissions strategy focused on academic quality, contributed to the University’s advances in selectivity,” he says.
Academic markers were up, as the Class of 2021’s average high school GPA and standardized test scores rose over the previous year’s results.
“Saint Joseph’s ability to evolve and grow programs to meet the needs of students, while at the same time improving quality, is what places us among leading institutions in the exceedingly competitive realm of higher education,” says Jeanne Brady, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Domestic applicants hailed from 45 states, and international applicants, representing three percent of the pool, came from 66 countries. The impressive academic credentials and diverse background of the new class — like Jessica Atoo, Isabella Cocozza, Alvin Dahn and Michela Bussard, shown here — serve to energize and enhance Saint Joseph’s classroom environment and campus atmosphere.
Jessica Atoo ’21
Ignatian College Connection Scholar
Major: Information Technology
Hometown: Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
Jessica Atoo learned about the Ignatian College Connection (ICC), a program designed to prepare high school students from educationally diverse communities for college success, from Malcolm Odum ’20, a current ICC Scholar at SJU and friend since she was four years old.
“I emphasized that this is the time to make her own decisions and become a little selfish in what she wanted out of a school,” he recalls. Odum suggested Atoo participate in the ICC’s high school summer program, which involves taking college-level classes, preparing for the SATs and experiencing life on campus.
The ambitious flute-, bass-, guitar- and piano-playing student from Sacred Heart Academy in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where she had stints as multicultural club president, golf team manager and softball team right fielder, seized Odum’s advice and introduced the ICC to her extensive list of activities. By her junior year of high school, Atoo knew she wanted to attend Saint Joseph’s.
“First and foremost, my focus is academics,” says the SJU information technology major, who meets regularly with an academic advisor as part of ICC and looks to ultimately apply her interest in computer science in a business setting.
In the meantime, Atoo wants to become involved in SJU extracurricular activities, especially groups that promote diversity. Just a few months into the school year, the ICC Scholar is making good on that goal, joining the jazz band, Higher Destination Choir, Bridging the Gap, Down to Pray, Black Student Union and PRIDE.
Isabella Cocozza ’21
Major: General Humanities
Hometown: Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
Isabella Cocozza graduated with distinguished honors from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, after she took several AP courses and as many honors classes as possible. Now an SJU Maguire Scholar and the recipient of a merit-based University Scholarship, she says, “I want to be surrounded by other students who make school a priority.”
As the academically focused humanities student considers a future in law, Cocozza’s commitment to service is equally as important to her. With her dedication to both studies and service, she says, “I was only serious about the Jesuit schools I applied to.”
The Maguire Foundation shares with Saint Joseph’s University an inherent dedication to social justice, and Cocozza intends to extend her high school weekly service involvement throughout her time
Service wasn’t the only element of the Maguire Scholarship that appealed to her. The foundation follows its scholars through their academic careers and ensures that advising is in place to help them.
“The Maguire Foundation wants to know the students it gives awards to,” Cocozza says, and that works well for her at SJU, which she calls “an inviting and a happy place, where everyone wants to see each other succeed.”
Alvin Dahn ’21
Athletic Scholarship, Soccer
Major: Sports Marketing
Hometown: Yekepa, Liberia
Hawk Hill is a long way from Alvin Dahn’s hometown in Liberia, the oldest republic of Africa. He journeyed to the United States in 2014 at age 16, after a yearlong process to secure a visa, and he enrolled at the Phelps School in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
Dahn says his transition to living in the United States has been “a learning experience” — although his success on the soccer field in high school made it look easy. A three-time Tri-County Independent School League MVP, he received the Eastern Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Award and also lettered in baseball.
Soon after an SJU coach noticed Dahn playing in a tournament, the Hawks offered him an athletic scholarship. He knew then that he was SJU bound.
Dahn’s parents and a brother remain in Liberia, while another brother, whom he sees every weekend, lives in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Grateful to be living in the United States, he says he sees his athletic scholarship as an opportunity. And the Hawks see opportunity in having the skilled midfielder on the soccer squad.
“Alvin is an extremely talented player who has the ability to make impact plays in the games,” says coach Don D’Ambra.
“He is a high-character person with a great personality, as well as hard-working, humble and an excellent teammate.”
Michela Bussard ’21
Hometown: Simi Valley, California
After graduating from La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, California, one evening last May, Michela Bussard (above, left) and her family raced to catch a plane that would take them across the country to Philadelphia. By 9 a.m. the next morning, they were seated on SJU’s Curran Lawn to watch the graduation of the Class of 2017, including Michela’s sister, Daniela (above, center), who earned her degree cum laude with a double major in food marketing and leadership, ethics and organizational sustainability.
An SJU Legacy Award recipient, Michela says she loved Saint Joseph’s from the first time she visited campus with Daniela, who is now working as a leadership program associate for KeHE Distributors in Naperville, Illinois. The Bussards’ other sister, Isabella (above, right), is a junior majoring in communication studies with a minor in sports marketing. She transferred to SJU after just one semester at another school. The Bussard sisters are the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college.
Michela, a marketing major, began her freshman year by participating in the Philadelphia Service Immersion Program, a four-day, optional, early move-in experience of community service, intellectual discovery and urban exploration. She plans to participate in the Appalachian Experience and is already involved in Her Campus, the Adventure Club and Relay for Life.