Monday, September 20, 2004

UC spruces up to get students to call it home

New facilities built to entice people to live on campus

By Denise Smith Amos
Enquirer staff writer

Tara Garrison sits at home amid her "stuff," making snap judgments. The hot-pink pillowcases and Bearcats blanket will go with her to her dorm at the University of Cincinnati. The SpongeBob SquarePants pillow stays home, in Milford.

Into baskets jammed with supplies and clothes, she stuffs something that isn't warm and fuzzy: pepper spray canisters. Garrison, 18, is nervous about living in the city.

Tara Garrison, 18, with her cat, Street, gets her things ready for her new college life at the University of Cincinnati.
(Enquirer photo/CRAIG RUTTLE)
"I'm a little scared," says the freshman criminal psychology major, "but I'm going to jump into it like it's nothing."

Classes begin Wednesday, and Garrison is one of a record 3,290 students who will be living in UC dorms this fall. She'll be among thousands who'll spend time and money on the Clifton campus. As UC continues efforts to transform itself from a commuter campus to more of a traditional college, it hopes more students like Garrison will commit to living on campus.

UC has a long way to go.

The number of students living on campus is just 10 percent of UC's fall enrollment of 32,256. Over the long term, UC plans to add more rooms through dorm renovations and new buildings so that by 2015, it can count 4,025 beds on campus, said Todd Duncan, director of housing and food services.

University officials also are concerned about conditions in some neighborhoods bordering the campus. Greg Hand, university spokesman, said UC is helping the neighborhood councils in Clifton, University Heights and Corryville to fund development projects, and to boost their images and safety.

Campus additions

Welcoming activities kicked in over the weekend as students began trucking their belongings into dorms.

Garrison was among the first to arrive at Siddall Hall, on the West Campus.

Until July, she had planned to live at home and commute a half hour to school. But one look at the new student union, athletic fields and other student recreation facilities, and Garrison, who played basketball and sand volleyball in high school, changed her mind.

Her father, Bob Garrison, agreed to help her move, betting that the more involved she is in campus life, the more seriously she'll take her studies.

"You'll go much farther if you feel like you belong," he said Friday.

This will be the first school year that UC students can enjoy most of the bricks-and-mortar attractions in UC's $234 million MainStreet makeover.

MainStreet is anchored by the student union, called the Tangeman University Center, which was expanded, renovated and reopened in May. It boasts a first-run movie theater, a 600-seat food court, a dozen restaurants, and comfortable student lounge and study areas.

This week it adds the Catskeller Game & Sports Lounge, where students can play video and Internet games, shoot billiards and watch sports on TV.

"A lot of people like to be on campus now that TUC is open. Everything is inside that building," said Dante Sanderson, a marketing sophomore.

Nearby, the newly opened Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center is home to key student activities and clubs, including Student Government, the Women's Center, the Office of Ethnic Programs and Services, and an art gallery as well as a Subway and a Starbucks. Its computer lab fits in more than 100 seats, a multimedia editing room, wireless Internet, an area full of kiosks for Web-accessible computers and spaces for plugging in laptops.

UC's new baseball stadium opened in May as part of the $109 million Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village, but the other athletic fields and sports facilities are nearly finished or will be by December 2005.

Nearby, construction of the Student Recreation Center continues. It will house suite-style apartments for 224 upperclassmen, a restaurant, six classrooms, a fitness center, racquetball courts, a gym, two pools, a climbing wall and a juice bar. The suites open in fall 2005.

New dorm rooms could come in handy now, university officials say.

Demand for UC's existing dorm rooms is up this year by 111 students over last year, said Duncan. Normal dorm capacity is 3,208, but in a pinch the university could squeeze in 3,400, he said

Dorms opened Friday and Saturday for move-ins. At Siddall Hall, where Garrison lives, the lines to use the elevator stretched through the lobby. Many gave up and hauled their gear up the stairs.

As Bob Garrison finished installing his daughter's laptop, Tara looked out her fourth-floor windows at the brand new soccer field and baseball fields.

"UC has grown up," Bob Garrison says. "It's much more like a big university."

Big changes at UC

Here are other changes greeting UC's returning students this week:

• Additional classrooms are being converted to "smart classrooms," in which instructors use computers to project lessons, course material, Internet research - even audio and TV images - onto whiteboards. Chalkboards are still there but don't get as much use, said Greg Hand, a UC spokesman and former public relations instructor. UC has about 100 smart classrooms and is adding about 10 a year, he said.

• Some students also will be carrying "Go Binders," a kind of electronic notebook that keeps and organizes class schedules and class notes, using handwriting recognition, on one computer pad.

• New groups for Spanish-speaking students, including Alpha Psi Lambda fraternity, the nation's first co-ed Latin fraternity, are organizing this year at UC.

• Football coach Mark Dantonio begins his first full season at UC.

• UC and Cincinnati State Technical Community College are jointly offering a new baccalaureate degree in culinary arts and science. Students take two years at Cincinnati State and two years at UC, and can use their bachelor's degree to become chefs or work in major food corporations.

• UC is opening a new, 1,000-car parking garage this year, and about 200 new spaces in the Calhoun Street garage open in a week or so, said John Hautz, parking services director. Students and staff usually buy about 10,000 to 11,000 parking permits for the university's 12,000 spots each semester, he says, but congestion will die down in a couple of weeks as schedules and routines are set.

• Metro has added two new, crosstown bus routes to UC. Route 39 goes from Western Hills Plaza through Cheviot and Westwood, to the University of Cincinnati and the medical center area, and Route 24 has two options: One begins at Mercy Hospital Anderson and the other at Metro's Anderson Township Park & Ride.

• MainStreet's new buildings and new landscaped pedestrian paths mean that names and addresses on many of UC's buildings and garages will change this year to reflect new configurations. "It simply makes sense for the street and building names to match, allowing visitors, students and parents an intuitive way to navigate campus," said Lucy Cossentino, senior environmental graphic designer in UC's architect's office.

More strategies are in store to remake UC's campus and to boost its national reputation and enrollment, university leaders said. The school will be adding more classes and academic programs, said John Cuppoletti, chairman of the Faculty Senate.

"We're growing in every single way," he said.

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