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Greener pastures

Enrollment and environmental efforts on the rise at Fort Worth Center

Cheryl Mobley
“First, I chose the Fort Worth Center because of its reputation. Second, it was close to where I work. Finally, there are definite advantages to the cohort system. You get to know a lot of people.”

- Cheryl Mobley

Cheryl Mobley wasn't familiar with the cohort concept until she became part of it. She was one of several hundred new students at UT Arlington's Fort Worth Center last fall.

In the cohort format, the same students remain together throughout the program, doing team projects and drawing on mutual expertise and personal experiences as the class moves toward graduation.

The center saw a 34 percent enrollment increase last fall compared to fall 2006. That equates to 930 students, up from 694 a year ago. Graduate enrollment increased 45 percent.

"First, I chose the Fort Worth Center because of its reputation. Second, it was close to where I work," said Mobley, who works at Texas Health Resources in Fort Worth and is pursuing a master's degree in health care administration. "Finally, there are definite advantages to the cohort system. You get to know a lot of people."

Mobley's class is divided into students already working, those in the clinical arena and those coming straight out of a bachelor's degree program.

"It's quite rich," she said of her Fort Worth Center learning experience.

Executive Director Mike West says the center, which opened in January 2006, fills a need. "They didn't have a public university here in Fort Worth. Now they do, and people are taking advantage of that."

Located in the historic Santa Fe Building downtown, the 68-year-old structure represents a blast from the past with its distressed brick, overhead track doors and open ceiling.

But the historic setting doesn't represent old-style thinking.

In starting the campus from scratch, Dr. West and operations Director Megan Topham decided to green up the place. A couple of months ago, they didn't mail holiday cards, they sent flowers.

Recipients will have to wait until spring for the flowers, though. Wildflower seeds are embedded in the paper. "You can plant them in the ground and wildflowers will come up," Topham said.

The holiday card that keeps on giving is just one of the green ideas blooming at the center.

"We're doing what we can on a local level," Topham said. "We use recycled paper with the highest post-consumer waste content available. We use soy ink. We have fluorescent, energy-saving light bulbs and a comprehensive recycling program."

Topham had to sell West on the whole Earth-friendly concept.

"I didn't completely buy in initially," he said. Then he learned that recycling an aluminum can takes only 10 percent of the energy needed to make a new can.

Topham said a key to going green is finding willing vendors who don't charge exorbitant prices. "It takes a little digging, but you can do it."

A small general store, which opened in November, is the center's latest addition.

"We wanted to offer students something a little different," Topham said of the market, which features food, clothing and supplies. "The clothing is all organic cotton. Supplies are recycled or tree-free, and there is a variety of healthy food options."

Topham was introduced to green thinking by the North Texas Corporate Recycling Association, which promotes recycling and the use of recycled goods to area businesses. NTCRA President Fran Witte said the center and UT Arlington are realizing that recycling is a thread of the total ecological picture.

"They want a healthy planet," said Witte, who also serves as Irving's solid waste programs and marketing supervisor. "More cities, businesses and entities are getting involved because of the media coverage about recycling and global warming. People are becoming aware, and we applaud that recognition."

She said NTCRA has about 100 members but that its real value comes in educating cities, businesses and entities about how to recycle, steps toward environmentally friendly purchasing and instituting other green initiatives.

— Herb Booth

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