Discovery Park, October 9, 2012
President V. Lane Rawlins talked with 30 students about football game attendance, buses and development plans at Discovery Park during his first Really, let's talk session of the fall 2012 semester, held at Discovery Park, UNT's 300-acre research park.
Rawlins started the session by telling the audience that UNT was off to a great start for the 2012-13 academic year, with the largest freshman class in its history. The College of Engineering, which is housed at Discovery Park, is growing particularly fast, he said, as well as the College of Business, which has a relatively new building -- the Business Leadership Building.
"I'm really proud of our colleges and programs," he said.
Graduation rates also are going up, he said, which bodes well for students.
"If you want to graduate, this is a good place to come," he said. "We specialize in getting our students finished with degrees and in jobs. This is a student-centered institution. Fundamentally it means we want to offer you good courses and see you graduate and succeed because that's why you came here."
How can UNT fill the stands at Apogee Stadium was the first question posed to Rawlins during the session.
"I think by winning. Winning is magic. It will fill up," Rawlins said. "One of the other things that is happening, which is important, is building up the tradition of students attending athletic events."
Part of that is due to Coach Dan McCarney, whose first season with UNT was fall 2011. He is one of the most student-oriented coaches I've known, Rawlins said. And I've been impressed with the student section at home games this season, he said, adding that UNT needs to work on attracting more community members to the stadium.
Rawlins noted that it takes about three years to rebuild a football program under a new coach. The fall 2012 season is McCarney's second season with the Mean Green.
"I can see a lot of improvements this year over last year. It doesn't show in the win-loss record necessarily, but we have played a tough schedule," Rawlins said. "I'm really proud of our athletes."
Crowded buses to and from Discovery Park also was a topic at the session. A student told Rawlins that it's hard to use university buses at peak times and students are delayed in getting to class because of it.
"I know it's an issue," Rawlins said.
The university has bought 11 new buses since 2010 and is looking to make changes and improvements to help alleviate the problems, he said. Traffic and distance from the main campus are issues that are hard to get around, he said.
"I think we need to continue to monitor it and I appreciate the feedback," he said.
Griffin, the associate parking director, pointed out that during peak hours, there are a total of 32 UNT buses on the shuttle routes. Learn more about the routes and schedules.
Classroom shortages at Discovery Park are becoming an issue, said a faculty member, because more non-science and engineering classes are being held at Discovery Park versus the main campus. He asked Rawlins if the university could limit how many of those courses are located at Discovery Park during specific times.
"We do have a President's Capital Projects Council, which looks at space planning, so we need to get that issue on the table," Rawlins said. The university is asking for legislative approval to build new buildings, which would free up space all over campus, he said.
"We need to address it as a long-range problem," Rawlins added. He urged the faculty member to bring up the issue with his dean and the Capital Projects Council.
New development at Discovery Park
Development plans for Discovery Park were brought up by a student. The student pointed out that most of the university's development happens on the main campus, noting the new Apogee Stadium, the new Highland Street Parking Garage and the proposal to build a new student union. The union project, which is a student-approved and student-funded project, is awaiting final approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board after the board rejected the initial building proposal in October.
The student asked if UNT plans to create new facilities at Discovery Park.
UNT has recently opened several new facilities at Discovery Park, such as the Zero Energy Research Laboratory and new greenhouses, Rawlins said, and the university is planning new research facilities.
The university is asking for legislative approval to create a major new research facility. The location of the facility has not been finalized because there are growth and space needs on the main campus, too, he said.
"As part of our master plan, we are really trying to work through whether we ought to relocate our undergraduate engineering programs to the main campus. If we do that, then the engineering growth and construction would take place on the main campus," he said.
Engineering is our fastest-growing college and it's a space-intensive discipline, Rawlins said. We know there has to be more space and construction so the college can reach its full potential, he added.
More services at Discovery Park
A desire to have a "mini-union" at Discovery Park with a bookstore and retail store came up when a student asked about the possibility of offering those kinds of services at the research park.
"The economics of those things have to work. We subsidize virtually everything out here," Rawlins said. "As enrollment and use grows at Discovery Park, then it becomes economically more efficient."
With, the vice president for student affairs, said the university tries to provide as many services as possible at Discovery Park. We have provided lounge space and limited food service, and we can look at more options, she said.
The university also could consider offering other types of services a few times a year for easy access, she said.
Rawlins ended the session by thanking students for being invested in UNT and its progress.
"That's what makes an institution great -- having this dialogue and interest," he said. "I think we have created an environment focused on student success. That's what I'm excited about."