ST. PETERSBURG — Unlimited wireless connectivity, its own intranet, study abroad blogs and online social networking have helped to make Eckerd College one of the "Top 20 Wired Colleges in 2008."
That according to PC Magazine, who in partnership with the Princeton Review, an educational services company, ranked the liberal arts college No. 7 in the nation for its tech-savvy offerings.
According to PC Magazine's Web site, surveys — which included tech-specific questions — were conducted earlier this year for the 2009 edition of the Princeton Review's annual publication, The Best 368 Colleges. Eckerd moved up from its No. 18 position in 2006, the year of the previous collaboration.
For comparison, MIT was listed as No. 20.
"We try to provide a great service to our community, so when we're recognized by a third party, we're thrilled," said John Duff, acting director of information technology services at Eckerd. "It validates what we do."
It's the smaller size of the school and personalized attention that make Eckerd among the digitally elite. "Our size allows us to do this without being overwhelmed," he said.
• Wireless connectivity is available nearly everywhere on the 188-acre campus, whether it's in a dorm room, classroom, cafeteria or under a palm tree.
• The college boasts its own campus Intranet supported by 59 state-of-the-art servers.
• Should a hurricane or fire strike, classroom and other operations can continue seamlessly with a co-located data center in Tampa. This means few, if any, classroom cancellations because of weather or other disasters.
• And free computer repair is a student perk.
"Last year we fixed about 300 computers," said George Overly, who runs the repair shop on campus. Once fixed, the shop will install antivirus and antispyware to help students avoid future problems.
No computer? No problem.
Any of the 1,800 students can sign out a laptop, digital camera or video camera.
And those who don't feel like lugging around a computer may access their personal desktops using an e-card that works with the library's "thin clients," terminals that are linked to a server.
Sarah Schweig, 21, who was working in the 24-hour computer lab, marveled over the fact she never had to pay for paper.
"They have it all here," she said. "All the free printing you want."
Casey Paquet and his team of "Web dudes" build and maintain the college's Web site, which includes a portal called Triton Connect, a social networking tool.
When winter term comes, many students travel abroad to places like India, Italy or Japan. They stay in touch with friends and family through their own travel blogs that include space for stories and photos.
And there's a special place for those nervous freshmen, too.
"It (Triton Connect) helps to build a sense of community even before the students get here," Paquet said. "It's a one-stop portal that gives them what they need to know about school policy, course materials, people and places."
And yes, there is some hooking up along the way, he said.
At Eckerd, even the mind-numbing laundry chores can make for a bit of computing fun.
Just ask Christopher Davenport, a sophomore who'd rather spend his free time playing Nintendo Wii than running over to the dorm next door to check on his laundry.
Davenport simply goes online to LaundryView (www.laundryview.com) for a peek at the hip graphics, which include shaking or still machines, with time-left indicators.
He also has notifications sent to his cell phone and e-mail when a machine may be free or his laundry is done.
"I use it all the time; it's a great time saver," Davenport said. "It's a testament to the commitment to technology this college has made."