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Monday, April 23, 2012

Fourth Annual: The Year in Review - 2011-2012

Personally, I will always remember this as the year of the dog (see The Dog Jurgens, above). As always, one can never anticipate in August what will transpire in the year ahead. So here it is, a review of the hits, misses, and unexpected that happened over the past academic year. This is the 200th post of The Dean's List blog. Seems appropriate to be the last post of the academic year before (more or less) shutting it (the blog) down heading into the summer.

Top Stories
1. CSI
Not a crime show, but the opening of the new Center for Science and Innovation opened amid rave reviews in January. Several phases remain in this project, but in addition to the Dicke-Smith Art and Music buildings, this makes Trinity a great destination for students who want facilities to match the caliber of their instruction. Bravo to all involved.

2. Mabee Hall gets a make-over

With much planning and input, ARAMARK and Trinity made bold moves in renovating Mabee Dining Hall and changing the dining format from a la carte to all-you-care-to-eat. Reviews were mixed. Hardest hit were sophomores, who were required to participate in the new plan, but missed the old one. Juniors and seniors had a seniority-based option. New students had fewer adjustments.

3. Fraternity and sorority suspensions
Following several anonymous reports, several fraternities and sororities were suspended, initially, for two to three years. As with the dining changes, there were many opinions and concerns shared from many angles. The University has been, and will remain, committed to fraternity and sorority life. Look for changes, though, in monitoring of club orientation events and for an increase in alumni involvement.

4. Curricular review and strategic planning

For faculty and staff, the excitement of a comprehensive review of who we are, our mission, and how to best deliver it, has consumed much of the past year. A building master plan will also be included. This deliberative, methodical, and comprehensive process has been guided with great professionalism by Lisa Jasinski, Nancy Mills, and others. From this perch - it all seems right on.

5. Monte Vista

Our friends next door are trying to preserve the integrity and feel of the historically significant and quaint atmosphere that makes Monte Vista a perfect neighbor for us. Unfortunately, Trinity's use of university-owned homes became a flashpoint between these longstanding neighbors. It looks like things have largely been resolved. We can get along. 

6. The Dog Jurgens
The best thing about The Dog Jurgens, besides that she literally is a hugger AND has a sense of humor, is that this TSA bomb sniffing dog reminds us of the personal toll of 911, which hit the ten-year milestone this past September. Named for hero Paul Jurgens, we have connected with his family and hope to get them to campus in the fall.

7. Construction
The Big Trench was a major part of campus life over much of the year. The heating and cooling plants, formerly in three locations, have been consolidated down to two. One is dedicated for heating and one for cooling.

8. VP exodus
The two most recently hired vice presidents moved on for various reasons. They were important members of the president's team and they have yet to be replaced. Who steps in next will be important to the future direction of our campus.

Einstein Brothers Bagels sustained popularity throughout the year. The idea of a non-ARAMARK brand appealed to students looking for a change of pace. The POD in Mabee was also a success.

Class newsletters, from Student Affairs, saw a dramatic increase in actual hits. These newsletters are set-up to be specific to the here and now for students and are based on a 48 month calendar. The new format finally allows the Residential Life Coordinators, Class Marshals and Alumni Sponsors to offer cohesive, tailored, and scheduled messages to students.

The Senior Year Experience committee made great strides in developing and offering structure and direction during this critical time for our graduating students. Melissa Flowers in Residential Life was involved in both this and the newsletter initiatives.

A late entry, but the Adirondack chairs that have been placed all around campus seem to be in use all the time. Too bad they don't come in red brick.

Our student talent continues to amaze. Whether it is in athletic competition, on the stage, in musical performances, or our students are performing for Trinity Idol, Spotlight, or in the Trinitones and Acabellas.

Misses (things we didn't want)
The backlash against the Mabee Hall changes was actually a real surprise. The facility opened to rave reviews in its first week. The biggest complaint from students was that meals in this new format can't be taken as to-go food. From there, nearly every change was evaluated through critical eyes. But I would never take that personally.

Hosting Ward Churchill on campus was not a high point. He did bring attention to the issue of free speech, which sometimes gets confused with who has the loudest voice. Civility in general took a step backwards with the TU gossip Facebook and twitter pages. Anonymity creates for boldness among the weak.

The all-campus retreat day was scheduled during Austin City Limits, possibly affecting student attendance. Who knew...

Wild Dogs versus Feral Cats. Guess who wins. A blow to the heart of the Cat Alliance, which does great work on campus. Even if it is about cats.

Power outages related to construction were inconvenient to say the least. Perspective is a fickle lady.

The DVD kiosk in Coates never quite took off. The owners of the vending site cut their losses in late spring. Online seems the way to go...

Under the Radar
ASR worked hard on the mind-numbing task of bolstering the student activity fee. This will be really good for our students in the long run.

Edwin Blanton continues to put Trinity on the map as a Community Volunteer and for his work in continuing our tradition in being honored with the Presidential Community Service Award.

In case you don't know it, the Trinitonian is fantastic. Another great year for a very professional team. Shout out to the Mirage staff too!

Earth Week shows that a few care a lot about so much.

Hertz cars on campus, led by Hertz Girl Alana Ramos offer students transportation options without the expense and hassle of having their own cars on campus.

Tower lights, a personal pet project, are up and shining. Pink for Valentine's Day, green for St. Patty's day, blue/green for earth day, and more to follow.

Dave Mansen and Angela Breidenstein, the Alumni Sponsor and Class Marshal for the Class of 2012 will be the first duo to have seen the program all the way through. They have been terrific guides for our students from welcoming them on move-in day through the conclusion of their duties at commencement.

Big Hurts
The most gut wrenching loss of the year took place when junior Alex Reinis passed away while studying abroad in London on November 23, 2011. His wonderful friends and family have honored Alex and his memory in so many ways, including with the memorial near Miller Hall. He left a big void.

Catharine Found, senior volleyball player, lost her mom and sister within a month over the summer. The Trinity community embraced her warmly at a fall volleyball game where the team and campus honored Catharine with the Team Found tribute. Such a wonderful young woman who had to endure too much in a short period of time.

Yolanda from Mabee passed away this spring. She will be missed.

On the Horizon
ASR has hit the ground running. Under the leadership of Joe Moore and Sean Solis, the organization is looking to quickly build on the foundation set by this year's group.

Freshiis is tentatively slated to be opened as the Science Cafe in CSI sometime next year.

Hope Hall will launch and should serve as a model for living and learning communities. This one will combine academic, volunteer, and leadership components around the topic of homelessness.

Parking may finally get the attention it deserves under the new ASR.

The Skyline Room is slated for a summer renovation that should be a win for all stakeholders. Unless everyone hates it and sends me hundreds of emails about the massive failure that is my vision.

The strategic plan should come to some conclusion next year, as well as the proposed new curriculum. This should be exciting for our campus and shape our future significantly.

The Student Handbook will cease to exist. We have a new one. It is called the Internet.

Year Three
Year Two
Year One


Ben N. said...

Another hit...the Library Gnome. Who knew that the most popular twitter presence among students wouldn't be @TUdean or @BenJNewhouse but a garden adornment that likes to roam. Well played, @coateslibrary.

Dr. Breidenstein said...

Thank you for the shout-out and the opportunity to be part of the Faculty Class Marshal and Alumni Sponsor initiative. It has been an honor and I'm thankful for the faith you had in my as well as your guidance and advocacy.

Darrius Plantz said...

I for one really appreciate the presidents honesty and the way in which he delivers his messages. Refreshing!

Anonymous said...

I believe Dr. Ahlburg confirmed that no higher authorities where contacted beyond TU Campus Police. If they were contacted, I'm sure he would like the facts as well.

ThayerES said...

As an alumni I find myself dismayed by the “change of heart” of your office concerning in-training service dogs on campus. It is sad to me, due to the fact that 7 years ago, a Military Working Dog, training for explosive detection and patrol by the 341st/ Military Working Dog Center based out of Lackland AFB in partnership with TSA, your office refused to allow him on campus based on your "discretion as dean of students" and the fact that “he would be a distraction to the students”, but when it has personal gains for yourself and the school it is glorified on campus. This is a sad commentary on the purpose of why we raise dogs for these programs. As a person who has raised puppies for Department of Defense, I am distraught at the thought that the only reason this would be done is personal gain, and not as a sense of patriotism when K-9’s are actively engaged in the War on Terror and Military service.

David Tuttle said...

Dear ThayerES,

Thanks for the comment. I can't remember that request but don't doubt it occurred. I assume the request was to raise such a puppy in the dorms. The Dog Jurgens was proposed to me by students from Campus Publications and their advisor. While they would keep the dog during the day they needed a permanent home on campus for nights and weekends and they asked me if I would keep her. It is a lot of work, so I am not doing it for any self-serving purpose. I agree with you that it is a fantastic program. One thing that has happened is that we have connected with the Jurgens family and they are coming in September to visit. It is really touching and we will share that story because it is so neat. I hope this mitigates your feelings of dismay just a bit.