New academic year promises excitement and achievement
The new academic year promises growth, achievement for University
Classes for the new academic year begin next week. But already the campus is buzzing with activity. On Sunday, more than 1,000 students moved into our residential communities for NevadaFIT, our highly successful academic preparation program. On Thursday, it is estimated that an additional 1,900 students, who will be living in our residential communities, will move onto campus to begin preparations for what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting academic years in our history.
Before we look ahead, here are a few updates on initiatives that have occurred since our Commencement ceremonies in May.
Earlier this month, the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas finalized an agreement that will ensure Nevada's two public medical schools each have its own faculty as well as clinical practices. This agreement assures quality medical education opportunities for students statewide, will expand patient care across the state, and will provide the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine the opportunity to enhance its education and clinical operation. By July 1, 2017, the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine will be able to accommodate all or most students in Reno for all four years of their medical education. In addition, the School of Medicine's faculty practices will continue to grow in Reno through partnerships with community physicians and hospitals, particularly our comprehensive affiliation with Renown Health. I am pleased that our medical faculty, who have served medical students and patients superbly in southern Nevada, will continue to be part of Nevada's medical education system.
The renovation work in advance of the 50th anniversary of Mackay Stadium continues full-throttle ahead of the Wolf Pack's season opener on Sept. 2 against Cal Poly. Coupled with ongoing construction at the nearby site of the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center, which is slated to open in January, I would like to remind the campus that we all need to be cautious in our travels around these sites, and that we also need to exercise patience regarding parking and transportation during the home opener on the evening of Sept. 2. As always, we are delighted the community is engaging with the University and is supporting the Wolf Pack.
Wolf Pack Welcome Week, as I mentioned earlier, has livened the atmosphere on campus considerably over the past few days. There is an unmatched sense of possibility and excitement in the air at this time of year. In addition to Thursday's Move-In Day, the New Student Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday at 9:30 a.m. at Lawlor Events Center. One of the campus' finest instructors and most accomplished artists, Dr. Albert Lee of the Music Department, will be the keynote speaker. I highly encourage all faculty and faculty colleagues to consider attending this important rite of passage for our first-year students.
In the spring and throughout this summer, the University has been actively engaged with the City of Reno in moving plans for the Gateway Project forward. The Gateway, which is incorporated in our Strategic Plan and is part of an ambitious Master Plan that has included the City of Reno in its development, promises to link our campus to the community like never before. Integral aspects of the Gateway concept include linking land that the University has purchased or is in the process of purchasing north of Interstate 80 and south of campus, with downtown and midtown Reno. We envision using this space for academic buildings, such as new facilities for the College of Engineering, the College of Business and, running in parallel with this effort, ongoing restoration and renovation of several of our most historic buildings on campus. This includes renovation of Lincoln Hall (which is reaching completion this month) as well as Thompson Hall and Palmer Engineering. The Lincoln Hall renovation will include more than 70 total offices for faculty from the College of Liberal Arts. The University's commitment to renovate many of our historic campus buildings totals about $26 million, including $8.5 million for 120-year-old Lincoln Hall. Although our opportunities for in-fill capital improvement projects on campus are dwindling, there is a notable effort worth mentioning: the Act II School of the Arts expansion. Act II will provide much-needed teaching, practice and performance space for our faculty and students in the Performing Arts. It will also, by its very nature, bring a sense of renewal and energy to our "lower" campus area in and around Hilliard Plaza. Regarding the above mentioned new Engineering Building, significant progress has been made to position this facility for a state funding proposal that has also included significant fund-raising success for the project for the University's share of the cost.
We have continued to make progress in our efforts to reduce classroom student-to-faculty ratios with an enrollment/faculty hiring strategy that will see our fall enrollment increase, though not as robustly as in years past. Although it is difficult to say for certain what our final fall enrollment headcount will be, most enrollment projection models are indicating that we will exceed last year's record of enrollment of 20,898 by several hundred students. Accompanying our slower enrollment growth strategy, the University will welcome close to 60 additional faculty members to the campus this week. This intentional "slow" growth enrollment and faculty growth strategy should help us continue to offer the quality, "hands-on" experiential learning that has become one of the memorable characteristics of the learning environment we provide our students.
Our Tobacco Free University initiative has seen many positive strides over the past several months, and will continue this academic year. All students and parents have received information during orientation this summer, and information continues to be provided during new faculty and staff orientations. The campus will also see additional signage regarding a Tobacco Free University during the first few weeks of the fall semester. A "Get Your Health On Health Fair" on Sept. 15 will highlight the educational and informational aspects of this initiative. Our efforts have helped lead the way for a broader implementation of similar initiatives at other NSHE institutions. Both Truckee Meadows Community College and Western Nevada College will be going "Tobacco Free" in the next year. Both institutions have reached out to us for expertise and insight into our own experience regarding this important endeavor.
In closing, I hope you have all had a productive and rejuvenating summer. With "opening day" just around the corner on Monday, it is my sincere wish that the coming academic year will be one of professional achievement and personal enrichment for all of you.