Springing into Spring: Planning for our Future
This week opened with a bang and a fizzle as the legislature closed its special session without addressing the needs of higher ed and TOPS. This is the middle of recruitment season for students and faculty, and the uncertainty in budgets makes decision-making very difficult for everyone. I believe that the thousands of Louisiana students who are making plans to attend college next Fall need to know that the State is honoring its commitment to TOPS. And higher education needs some assurance of stability in funding as we are aggressively growing the talent base that is crucial for future quality-job growth in the State while providing opportunities for education and career advancement for our Louisiana residents. Louisiana is competing with others across the nation and around the globe for jobs and economic growth, and the most important factor in that competition is the availability of talent. I do have confidence that these issues will soon be addressed, but it is important that we all continue to reinforce what is most important for our state – retaining and developing talent.
It was great to see the energy return to campus this week as students returned to kick off the Spring Quarter. From the pedestrian traffic in the Quad and the vehicular traffic in parking lots, it looks like the campus will be full and vibrant. I enjoyed meeting with students and prospective students in the office and also chatting with students as I walked around campus. I really appreciate their patience as we work on many projects across campus that are addressing growth, student success, accessibility, safety and aesthetics.
Construction of the new Integrated Engineering and Science Building has been slowed by the deluge of wet weather over the past few weeks. But the contractor made considerable progress this week as the sun came out and enabled soil & foundation prep to proceed. The Aswell and Pearce residential units construction project continued to progress and remain on target for a Fall 2018 opening.
Work is continuing on parking around the perimeter of campus. Over the break, we completed temporary parking at the old Sonic site and behind the Biomed building. We also began developing the parking lot just north of the railroad (between the pedestrian bridge and Everett Street). By next fall, that gravel lot will be made into permanent parking with enhanced lighting and pedestrian paths. That site is being prepped to handle elevated parking in the future.
The Quad is also being enhanced with new LED lighting, and that work is proceeding on schedule. We recently announced our Noble Trees project which will include planting new trees in the Quad and Keeny Circle as well as trimming and treating existing trees and removing a few of the water oaks that are near end-of-life and creating safety issues from falling limbs. The Noble Trees project has been enabled by a most generous gift from a couple of our alumni and we are offering the opportunity for others to participate through gifts at the following site: https://bullmarket.latechalumni.org/project/7934. We would love to have broader participation that enables us to achieve our goal of at least 1,000 new trees across campus over the next few years. By the end of Spring, we should have the Noble Trees project completed in the Quad, Keeny Circle and Legacy Park.
There are several other projects that are in various stages of planning and development including the demolition of Jenkins, McFarland and Hutcheson dorms with preparations for parking and intramural fields. And some additional parking will be enabled through some recent land acquisitions.
In Bossier City, our 30,000 sf Bossier Center at the National Cyber Research Park is in operation now. We are occupying the 10,000 sf first floor while construction is progressing on building out classrooms and labs in the fourth floor. That space should be completed by mid-summer. We look forward to working with BPCC to expand educational opportunities for students in that region.
Thanks to my Leadership Team, particularly Sam Wallace, Jim King and Brooks Hull for moving all of these projects forward while handling all of their other responsibilities. The foundation is being laid for a brighter future for the Tech Family.
Here are a few favorite pics for the week: