Youthful exuberance brings campus to life
din swelled as the sharply dressed crowd approached the Connections
Café last October on its way to the Distinguished Alumni Gala
opening reception. It was 6 o’clock on a Saturday evening, and
the University’s largest dining facility pulsed with students
eating, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
“I’ve never seen this many students here at this time of day,” I overheard a longtime UTA employee say as she peered inside.
Residential life Director Craig Zemmin, who lived on campus in the 1980s, remembers when the University Center was a bit ghostly on weekends.
“You could hear this echo in the building,” said the 1989 graduate. “Not anymore.”
The hubbub resonating throughout campus stems from more than a 12.5 percent enrollment increase last fall. For the past three years, UTA has been undergoing a transformation: More students are living on campus, fewer are commuting.
An all-time high of 3,400 students filled campus housing last fall. Officials hope to trim growing waiting lists by building new apartments this year and a new residence hall in 2004.
These residents—predominantly traditional college-aged students—have sparked a rejuvenation of campus life. A record turnout at Activities Fair Day, unparalleled membership in student organizations, increased attendance and spirit at athletic events—all are products of a more residential campus.
As is a bustling cafeteria filled with fresh-faced students.
Once the Gala reception ended, the gathering headed back to the other end of the University Center for the awards ceremony. As we passed the Connections Café, two students who looked to be in their late teens stood on their seats and leaned over the brick wall.
“What’s going on? asked one. “Why is everybody so dressed up?”
I explained that we were attending the Distinguished Alumni Gala, an annual event that honors the University’s outstanding alumni.
“Everybody looks so nice,” said the other.
“So do you and your fellow students,” I thought to myself, “just enjoying your normal Saturday evening scene.”