Discovery Park, October 20, 2010
President V. Lane Rawlins hosted about 30 students in Discovery Park's student lounge for second Really, let's talk session of the fall 2010 semester.
President Rawlins said that even though the session was called "Really, let’s talk," he planned to do more listening.
"One of my great teachers told me, ‘You have two ears and one mouth and you should use them accordingly.’ Sometimes I’m not really good at that," he joked. "I do more talking than I do listening, but this will be a good opportunity for me to hear what your concerns are or try to address your questions."
Questions ranged from parking, food service, and expansion plans at Discovery Park, UNT's nearly 290-acre research park.
Service for non-traditional students
One of the first questions came from a non-traditional student who asked what the university could do to better address the needs of students who aren't just out of high school.
UNT offers a variety of services catering to non-traditional students and will work to make those services more visible, Rawlins said. For instance, UNT has established a Veterans Center for student veterans, he said.
With, the vice president for student affairs, added that there are services beyond the Veterans Center. Discovery Park has a Center for Student Development that is a one-stop shop for non-traditional students. UNT's Transfer Center and the Office of the Dean of Students both offer assistance to non-traditional students as well, she said.
"Now, I’m hearing you say that we are not marketing that enough. We certainly can do a better job," With said.
Burggren, the provost, added that at UNT and universities across the nation there is no longer a typical student.
"There are a lot of first-time-in-college students and there are a tremendous number of transfer students," he said. "In fact some of you may or may not know this, but we have one of the largest transfer classes in the nation and we now have more transfer students than freshmen coming to our university. So we pay a great deal of attention to transfer students."
Burggren and With are co-chairing an Enrollment Council, one of four councils that President Rawlins recently established to make decisions on key issues that affect the university's growth. The Enrollment Council has formed sub-committees to look at three main groups of students: first-time-in-college students, graduate students and transfer students, Burggren said.
"We recognize that there are a tremendous number of students who don’t have the same needs and problems that freshman students or graduate students do, so we're bringing some focus on that," he said.
Discovery Park expansion plans
Many students asked about expansion plans and new amenities for Discovery Park.
There are plans for another building that will house researchers and faculty and serve students, Rawlins said.
And Burggren said the university has been focusing on creating incubator space for start-up companies to take advantage of the research expertise and facilities to develop new products. So far, two start-up companies have opened offices at Discovery Park.
"So as that incubator concept grows we will be making more and more partnerships with companies," he said.
The conversation also touched on the need for more amenities at Discovery Park, such as more food options and more study areas.
With, vice president of student affairs, told students that the university is conducting a needs assessments for Discovery Park, and expanding dining options at the research park was a high priority.
Additionally, there are plans to create more study areas at the research park, said Costas Tsatsoulis, dean of the College of Engineering, which is housed at Discovery Park.
Parking and transportation
Parking and transportation services on the main campus and Discovery Park also came up during the hour-long session.
Students expressed concerns about the lack of parking availability on main campus, especially at night when there are events. Others noted that Discovery Park's lots are starting to fill up with students who are parking at the research park but taking classes on the main campus.
President Rawlins said there are many ways to deal with parking issues, from providing more frequent bus service to creating parking lots off the main campus with shuttles to encouraging more bicycle use.
But he reminded students that there is no easy fix.
"The biggest issue is that these options are all very, very expensive. And when we spend money on that, it comes right out of the classroom and out of the laboratory," Rawlins said.
In closing the session at Discovery Park, Rawlins thanked students for attending and for giving him fresh perspectives.
"I like this place for a lot of reasons, but one reason is that there is a tradition here of trying to listen to people’s issues. Sometimes the issues are really hard to address, but sometimes there's an idea I haven’t thought of before," he said. "We get a lot of good feedback from you and I appreciate you being here and participating."