Our alma mater is receiving a major facelift. The long-awaited campus enhancement plan, a multimillion dollar renovation of some of our campus’ main outdoor areas, kicked off with a public groundbreaking on November 20.
Of the many changes happening at UT Dallas, including new buildings, a new dorm, and new academic programs, the campus enhancement plan is the one that I think will have the biggest impact on UT Dallas. Here’s what this enhancement brings to our alma mater:
Pride. Since our founding in 1969, UT Dallas has always placed great emphasis on recruiting the “best and brightest” students and faculty, but let’s face it – we haven’t always extended the same emphasis to our physical surroundings. With this enhancement plan, the campus' exterior will finally begin to reflect the University's excellence. As President Daniel has said, these enhancements “will improve the look and feel of UT Dallas to reflect and be consistent with the high level of quality that characterizes the people and programs here.”
A sense of place. President Daniel has also said that “in beautifying the grounds, we hope to create places of grace and inspiration, where lifelong memories are made, pictures are taken, friendships are formed and where we take our friends and relatives to show off the campus.” At the best universities, there are touch points, like a special bench where couples get engaged, or a patch of grass that only seniors can cross, or a stand of trees under which you can always find students reading and hanging out. These touch points help to create a campus culture and support enduring traditions. They’re what alumni come back to campus to visit. Obviously, simply beautifying the campus won’t give rise to new traditions, but it will create new spaces, unique to UT Dallas, that reflect the campus culture and will hopefully support new traditions in the future. As Jessie Harpham, a senior biology major who served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the campus enhancement groundbreaking ceremony said, "I love campus just as it is today because of all the memories it holds for me. But I look forward to returning as an alumna to see what this project can add for students to come.”
Common Connections. One of the major outcomes of the enhancement plan will be a more pedestrian-friendly UT Dallas. Drive A is being moved further south, and a new roundabout is being installed near the current intersection of Drive A and University Drive. Common areas, like one planned for the upcoming student services building, as well as an extension of the Student Union’s covered outdoor area, are designed to encourage more personal interactions. Our cars tend to act as silos - we drive to campus, park, walk into our class, walk back out, and drive off. The new pedestrian-oriented layout encourages more interaction with each other and with the campus itself. Beautiful public spaces draw people out of themselves and into that space, creating vibrancy and shared connections. These kind of connections are what universities are all about, creating an exchange of ideas and cultures.
The bottom line is that our alma mater is undergoing a major, very positive transformation. If we’re going to be a Tier One university then we need to look like a tier one university. We need to have spaces that encourage interactions, inspire new thoughts, and attract brilliant minds. This plan is about much more than trees and fountains. This is about enhancing the UT Dallas experience for generations of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
There’s a lot to this campus enhancement plan – more than I can touch on here. For more information about the campus enhancement, please visit the website at www.utdallas.edu/pwp or read our featured story in this issue of the Alumni Link.
Erin Dougherty, '03 and '07
Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving