Going to college is not just a four-year experience, it is a choice that affects a lifetime. It is a choice of community; it is a choice of pride. Students develop pride in their university from a variety of different sources; from the quality of faculty, to the feel of the campus, to the state of the facilities. It all factors into that Lobo Pride.
As UNM continues to celebrate birthday after birthday, its buildings are showing the wear and tear of old age. UNM is consistently challenged to fund large building projects that are imperative to the future of the University, and has recently defined several projects as the top building needs for the campus. These projects will, in part, be funded by the issuance of institutional bonds:
- Physics & Astronomy (PAIS) building
- Johnson Center Expansion & Renewal (JCER)
- Anderson School of Management building
- Renovation of Smith Plaza/Union Square
- UNM Children’s Campus
There are many aging buildings on campus that do not provide adequate space, technology, heating, cooling, and ventilation, energy efficiencies, or meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Physics and Astronomy building, in particular, has housed very high level research for many years, and the researchers in this department are pioneers in several fields of study. But the facilities where this research is conducted are less than adequate, and it has negatively affected the recruitment of top students and faculty.
“Faculty within the Physics and Astronomy department are doing incredible things in an otherwise unremarkable and increasingly unusable building,” says Travis Scholten, a UNM graduate student in the Physics and Astronomy department.
Scholten goes on to say that campus infrastructure is imperative to recruitment, and the overall vitality of UNM.
“[A new building] would help faculty do better research and attract better talent. This creates a virtuous circle: a better building attracts better talent, which draws in better students, and both do better research, allowing us to hire better people.”
The 2013 NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) Assessment and Knowledge Consortium Wellness Survey found that 68% of students surveyed reported that campus recreation facilities influenced their decision regarding which university to attend. 94% of students reported that maintaining a healthy lifestyle was important to them prior to enrolling in their chosen university. UNM’s Johnson Center is the only recreation center found on the Main Campus where students can exercise and play.
In 2014, there were over 1.3 million visitors to Johnson Center, 79% of whom were students. This highly used, aged facility houses Recreation Services, Health Exercise and Sport Sciences (HESS) courses, and UNM Athletics. The amenities in this building are sub-par and not competitive when compared with peer institutions. “Looking at the facilities at universities like LSU and Florida State the resources that those schools put into their rec centers far outweigh what we have here at UNM,” says Mark Orgeron, PhD student in UNM’s Sports Administration program.
Orgeron explains that he thinks Johnson Center could benefit from an expansion and renewal.
“I think the facility definitely needs an upgrade. I think the classroom technology needs to be improved, the HVAC system is terrible on a good day, and it’s really a shame when visiting volleyball teams come in and don’t have an actual, professional locker room to be had.”
Beyond recreation and research, tens of thousands of students come to UNM to learn in the classroom. Dr. Steven Yourstone, chair of the Anderson School of Management (ASM), recently gave a tour of his facilities to members of the student government.
“The east and west ASM buildings were constructed in 1968 and were designed for chalk boards and typewriters,” he said during the tour. “Business and government employers expect students to be educated in critical thinking and teamwork in modern facilities. Modern classrooms are flexible and have floor to ceiling heights that can accommodate modern technologies such as flat panel displays for team collaboration.”
Modern buildings and spaces do more than just support the research mission of a university. They engage the campus community, and instill a collaborative and diverse environment where people want to be.
Smith Plaza is a highly visible and utilized area located in the heart of campus. Last year, this space was used for various student-centered events. It was booked 244 times for a total of 1,412 hours of use, despite the fact that it is a generally uninviting space. There are many ADA compliance issues with the plaza as well.
Debbie Morris, director of the Student Activities Center, believes this space can be redesigned to create a functional area for student programming that can be safe and provide a beautiful centerpiece to campus that everyone can be proud of.
UNM has already begun the process of building new, modern, technologically compatible spaces across campus. The Collaborative Teaching and Learning Building (CTLB) and the new Science and Math Learning Center were designed to be innovative and modern while fostering collaboration amongst students in and out of the classroom.
UNM must take action when it comes to addressing its many mature spaces and buildings if it is to continue to serve New Mexico and its students. Social engagement, access to resources, recreation, and student wellness are major factors in the overall success of the college student. Modern spaces designed to facilitate this student success is just what UNM needs.