Dear Faculty, Staff & Students,
The Spring 2011 semester is well under way and our campus is filled with activity. I appreciate this opportunity to briefly update you on a few initiatives and issues that may be of interest.
The renovation and restoration of historic Girard Hall is essentially complete and this classroom building is again occupied and serving students and faculty. Now containing modern classroom space, labs and offices, the restoration of Girard Hall maintained the building’s original architectural features and ambiance. Girard Hall was named for Crow Girard and his mother, Mrs. Maxim Girard. The Girards donated 25 acres of land on the corner of Johnston Street and University Avenue that comprised the university’s original campus. Girard Hall was completed in 1923 and housed classrooms and the college’s library. A re-dedication ceremony will be held once “punch list” items are complete.
The restoration of another historical feature on campus is nearing completion. The bell tower on Stephens Hall in the quadrangle is being refurbished and this attractive feature will soon be functional again. Stephens Hall, originally dedicated as Stephens Memorial Library, was named for Edwin L. Stephens, the university’s first president. Constructed in 1940, it was the first building solely dedicated to functioning as a library.
You’ve no doubt seen or read about the major construction projects that have begun in earnest on the northeastern part of campus. The first new student residence hall and a parking garage are under construction on the Taft/Tulane/McKinley streets site and are scheduled to be completed in time for the Fall 2011 semester. A second residence hall on this site will be ready for student occupancy by the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester.
Phase II of the housing project will begin in the Rose Garden area (dorms along University Avenue and Boucher Street) in May of this year and should be completed by the Fall 2012 semester. This video provides a birds-eye view of plans for new student housing and a second parking garage. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeh9dKUAArQ)
Renovation and expansion of the Student Union will begin in Fall 2011; some work on this project will occur concurrently with Phase II of the housing project.
This aggressive schedule will no doubt create disruption and inconvenience for many on campus. I ask for your patience and understanding.
A portion of the proceeds from the bond sale to finance the housing project has been pledged by Ragin’ Cajun Facilities, Inc., to assist the university with the development of a comprehensive Master Plan for the university’s major land holdings in Lafayette.
This Master Plan will provide an important “road map” for addressing future academic and support needs and accommodate the thoughtful growth and development of the university. Local architect, Steve Oubre, an alumnus whose firm has experience with master planning and community development, has been contracted to do this work. Faculty member Tom Sammons, along with his student interns in the Community Design Workshop, will be key participants in this planning process.
Over the next several months, representatives from throughout the campus community will be invited to participate in a series of design charrettes, or public discussions, to help develop this vision for the university’s future.
You may have read that Governor Jindal has released his higher education reform proposals for the upcoming legislative session (http://www.gov.state.la.us/index.cfm?md=newsroom&tmp=detail&articleID=2681). The governor presented several interesting proposals aimed at helping higher education become more financially sound and removing various bureaucratic impediments. I look forward to reviewing and analyzing the details of any proposed legislation and will share thoughts about them at that time.
The university continues to make progress in enrollment with the Spring 2011 semester enrollment exceeding the Spring 2010 enrollment by 227 students. Most of this growth can be attributed to the rising number of continuing students. Admissions criteria and focused retention efforts are producing good results.
Improved student retention is also affecting the university’s graduation rates. I was pleased to see an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education this past December that ranked graduation rate improvements over the last six years at public research universities. In this report, UL Lafayette was tied for 3rd in the nation for the percentage improvement in graduation rates.
Best wishes for continued success this semester.
E. Joseph Savoie