NT-Dallas Breaks New Ground

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Oct. 14, 2005

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State and North Texas dignitaries gathered yesterday for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the first building of the NT-Dallas campus. However, what was supposed to be just ceremonial soon became literal, when politicians and NT officials actually had to shovel the dirt on the land site themselves.

A pile of dirt and sand was supposed to be collapsed with a detonator to reveal a sign proclaiming “UNT Dallas.” However, when technical difficulties prevented this, dignitaries immediately accepted brand-new, gleaming shovels and started doing the dirty work themselves.

“Well, I said it’d be different,” Chancellor Lee Jackson said, in response to the technical blunder. “Normally the groundbreaking is just for ceremony.”

Except for the absence of Gov. Rick Perry, who was in Kingsville at a friend’s funeral, the celebration went smoothly. It was held on the land site in a tent with blue and yellow decorations, which represented NT–Dallas’ school colors for the time being; combined, they form green.

Jackson opened the ceremony with a welcome and introduction.

“Today we will mark the success of this project, and plant the seed of the first permanent building of what will someday be a major campus, transforming lives, providing employment, and with all intent of supporting the communities around us in their own goals and improving their growth,” Jackson said.

After an invocation from Ramon Alvarez, reverend of Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Regent Gayle Strange spoke.

“UNT promises to build a full, comprehensive university, the first in the city of Dallas, just as soon as possible,” Strange said. “Today we are taking a giant step to making that vision a reality.”

The new campus will be a branch of NT, named NT at Dallas, such as UT at Arlington. It will be completely independent and separate from the current system center at Dallas.

“We want this location, this area, to be really a signature piece to the entire country, about how states and cities and communities surrounding it can work together to create something that is truly unique in an urban educational setting,” said Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill.

The new center is located off of a growing area of Loop-12, at the intersection of Camp Wisdom Road and Houston School Road, and is surrounded by the suburbs of southern Dallas.

“When I first investigated returning to school, I had to decide where I was going to attend,” Patricia De La Rosa, Cedar Hills graduate student, said. “My choices seemed few: I could either spend a great deal of money enrolling in one of the private schools around, or I could spend a great deal of time and gas on the road traveling back and forth between my home and school. With the opening of UNT Dallas, local residents are able to invest in their education without leaving their neighborhoods.”

Due to the Dallas campus’s location, many of the legislators hope the public university will provide new opportunities for the Dallas area.

“We want the students who come here not only to be successful in their careers, but to give back to the state and community,” Dr. Raymund A. Paredes, commissioner of higher education of Texas, said.

NT officials expressed similar hopes.

“We are more convinced than ever that with our plans to add more faculty positions, beginning in fall of 2006, and to continue to offer attractive programs that students can complete in a timely manner, our enrollment will surely grow,” Dr. John Price, vice provost for the NT-Dallas campus, said. “We look forward to moving to this location, a permanent land site, for the future UNT at Dallas and the soon-to-be constructed,  state-of –the-art facility, which has already won an award for excellence in architecture.”

The first building, designed by Sasaki Associates and the Aguirre Corporation, was unveiled at the end of the program. The building’s construction, managed by Hunt, began June 2005. Wednesday’s groundbreaking was only for ceremonial purposes. So far, a concrete base has been laid on the 264-acre lot.

“We are not building this building for economic development,” said state Rep. Jesse Jones (D), of the 110th District. “We are building this building so that education might take place and our future might be preserved.”

Presently, the system center at Dallas offers 16 undergraduate, eight graduate, one doctoral and eight certificate programs, mainly through night and weekend classes. The future NT-Dallas will offer degrees in departments such as liberal arts; science, technology and information management; business administration; education; health and human services; pharmacy and law.

The current NT-Dallas campus has 1,450 students (a 21% increase from last year) and 564 full-time students (a 33% increase since last year) – more than half of the phase one goal of 1,000 full-time students.

When enrollment equals 1,000 full-time students (projected for 2007), the NT system is authorized to open the NT at Dallas campus, which will be the first public university in the Dallas city limits. At that time, the campus will begin to grant degrees and gain accreditation.

“Once we get those enrollment numbers in fall 2007, we must have stability in order to have credibility as an academic institution,” said state Sen. Royce West (D) of District 23. “We’re sitting on about 260 acres of land, and can you imagine what is going to happen on this site?”

The second phase of the master plan, once the campus has enough enrollment to be recognized, anticipates 4,000 students by 2009. The third phase anticipates 16,000 students by 2030, and the final phase of the master plan will accommodate 25,000 students on 2,250,000 square feet.

“It’s for the future of the children,” Jones said. “The future of this university is in their heads, in their hearts and in their hands. It’s not built for us – it’s built for them and those of their generation.”

The UNT system and SBC hosted the event.

“I’m proud to be from Dallas, and I’m proud to have gone to UNT, but I really would have liked to have this campus here when I was in school,” said Paul Cardarella, NT alumnus and vice president for external affairs for SBC.

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