Johnson on KUNR: Enrollment, student success driving campus construction
University president shares details of long-term vision for campus
President Marc Johnson shared many of the details and the long-term vision behind the multitude of the University's construction projects during his Feb. 28 appearance on KUNR's public affairs program, "Beyond the Headlines."
During a wide-ranging interview with KUNR General Manager David Stipech, Johnson noted that despite shrinking state construction budgets, the University has mapped out a plan that will see the campus continue to grow, both in square footage and in student enrollment.
Johnson said the University is actually ahead of projected figures in student enrollment. The fall 2013 enrollment of 18,776 represented a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year.
"This continuous and accelerating growth has really got us thinking about how are we going to accommodate all these students," Johnson said, adding that the institution's goal is to reach an enrollment of about 22,000 students by 2021.
The slate of campus construction projects has included plans for the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center, the E. L. Wiegand Student Fitness Center, a three-story, 132-unit graduate student housing project to replace an antiquated 40-unit complex and a 400-bed new residence hall that should begin construction later this year.
He said all of these projects, as well as a renovation of the Redfield Proscenium Theater and Church Fine Arts Building, plus plans to increase academic space for the faculty, are all designed to ensure that the University continues an emphasis on quality and success.
"I'd have to say we're not just growing because we happen to be getting more students," Johnson said. "We're actually more attractive than we have been in the past."
Johnson said the University continues to actively recruit local students, as well as reaching into markets in Clark County and Northern California. He said more than 3,100 students from Clark County are currently enrolled at the University. In addition, Johnson said the University offers a quality alternative to good students from Northern California who feel they have been priced out of California institutions of higher learning. He cited a recent study that indicated that the University was one of the top 100 values in the country.
"And that traded off as a quality of education at an affordable price," he said.
Johnson also discussed with Stipech the funding mechanisms that are being used for the construction projects. Very little of the funding, Stipech noted, is coming from state resources. Johnson said that since the completion of the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center in 2010, the University has increasingly developed construction funding streams through student fees, philanthropic contributions and federal grants that have allowed construction projects to continue.
"We're a very entrepreneurial campus in being able to continue a construction boom without too much support from the state," Johnson said. He added that all construction projects have included a similar design vision in an effort to maintain the "classical" aesthetic of "red brick with white stone accents" that has come to characterize the physical appearance of the state's oldest institution of higher learning.
"We want to maintain a consistent architectural theme through the entire campus," Johnson said.
Johnson also used the appearance to cast a friendly invitation to the community. He said the campus has no doubt changed for individuals who might have been students here 25 or 30 years ago.
"Please come to the campus," he said. "Park on the campus and stroll through the campus and see what this University is like."
To hear the entire interview, go to: