Within her first year at UM, President Donna E. Shalala has made significant improvements around campus in regards to programming, services and physical additions to the University.
“We’re trying to do things so that students who are here now see the changes that are taking place,” Shalala said. “People need to see improvement.”
“I have focused on the agenda of students – I don’t really have an agenda of my own yet,” she said. “There is a buzz out there that this is a hot place to come.”
Shalala mentioned the IBIS student newsletter that is sent out to students as one of the improvements that have taken place this year.
“We’re trying to improve internal communications; this includes students,” Shalala said.
Starting in 2003, commencement ceremonies will take place in the new convocation center. According to Shalala, commencement has been divided into different time frames so that she may shake hands with each graduating student. Also, a new senior convocation will include a guest speaker who will interact with students and answer questions.
A group of students have been selected to provide President Shalala with a list of five people with whom they would like to speak.
“We want commencement to be focused on the students not on the speaker,” Shalala said.
Plans are also under way for building a University Village on campus that will house 1000 students, each with their own bedroom. The village will be made up of three and four bedroom apartments. There will also be a parking ratio of .95, which means that there will be parking for almost every student.
“I’ve never dealt with students living away from the campus,” Shalala said. “I have to think differently; we want to bring the apartments that students live in off campus on campus.”
Groundbreaking for the project is scheduled to take place in spring of 2003.
Currently there are 145 transfer and continuing upper-class students still living at the Holiday Inn.
“We’ve asked all of the students if they would like to move – only 20 want to,” said Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs. “We’re letting them stay if they want.”
President Shalala hopes that within three to five years there should be enough housing for all students to be able to live on campus.
Another improvement in regards to housing is that all residence halls now have ice machines. Student Government has ordered 4,500 ice buckets so that every student will have one. The ice buckets will have the student government logo on one side and the Department of Public Safety’s information and phone number on the other.
“We figured that students will have the ice buckets visible and having public safety’s information will make it accessible in an emergency,” Whitely said.
In regards to new structures on campus, UM has built a new plaza near the Rathskeller and University Center.
“The patio seems to flow into the UC better.” Shalala said, “It provides another open space on campus for students.”
Also, another patio was built near the Panhellenic building to allow more space for students to gather and socialize.
There was also a food cart moved over near the patio for students to have better access to the services. The previous area near the building often flooded, preventing students from congregating and socializing there, Shalala said.
Also, despite the opening of the new Pavia and Mahoney/Pearson garages, the temporary parking lots by the UC and Lowe art museum will not be closed until construction on the Ponce garage is complete and the garage is open.
“We’ll have a transition period to allow students to adjust,” Whitely said.
“The garages are easy to get into and are very secure,” Shalala said.
“Everything is a work in progress,” Shalala said. “Good leaders need short term and long term plans.”
“I can’t transfer experiences to this campus because it is placed differently,” Shalala said.
Shalala also responded to the new smoking bill that was passed by student government earlier this month.
“Remember, I used to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services,” Shalala said.
The bill must still be approved by Dr. Whitely, who will make her decision within the next few weeks.
“I have no enthusiasm toward smoking,” Shalala said, ” I tell every student that I see smoking that it’s not healthy.”
President Shalala is planning on donating blood at the homecoming blood drive in the UC Flamingo ballrooms this Wednesday at 1 p.m.