By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor
Enrollment continues to be a top priority on campus this year. The university hopes to have 20,000 students enrolled by 2020, said Chancellor John Christensen.
Christensen addressed enrollment, athletics and the university’s future in his annual State of the University address Wednesday. Seats in the Strauss Performing Arts Center were filled with students, faculty, staff and others.
“As part of realizing our vision of being a premier metropolitan university, we have been preparing to grow in enrollment, image and quality,” Christensen said. “In my opinion, the timing couldn’t be better, nor the stars more perfectly aligned, to implement an aggressive agenda and direction for the future.”
In last year’s address, Christensen emphasized that enrollment would be the main priority for the Chancellor’s office. While UNO’s enrollment has grown in the last seven years, it has been in small increments, Christensen said.
“While we are welcoming more students into the Maverick family, record numbers of students are completing their degrees and entering the workforce,” Christensen said.
Total enrollment grew over the past year by 0.5 percent. This semester, 14,786 students are enrolled. Undergraduate enrollment grew by 1.4 percent. Undergraduate transfers grew by 9.5 percent. Overall graduate enrollment was down by 3.9 percent but the number of new graduate students grew by four percent.
Student credit hours increased, too. They are up by 0.7 percent to more than 165,000 credit hours.
UNO saw an increase in international and minority students. These numbers went up by 19 percent. UNO has about 1,800 international students from 131 different countries. Student and faculty have exchange and partnerships with 22 international institutions and 23 sister cities.
The Metropolitan Advantage Program also saw a jump in numbers. MAP allows residents or high school graduates of certain districts in southwestern Iowa to attend UNO at a reduced out-of-state tuition rate. MAP grew by 11 percent in undergraduate students. It also saw a slight increase in graduate students.
Working with consultant firm Noel Levitz and the campus enrollment management team, recruitment and retention plans will be in place by January. Christensen hopes the plan will cause more growth starting in 2015.
Along with enrollment, the Student Affairs department has been reorganized. This will provide a “seamless transition” from first contact through graduation and career placement, Christensen said.
The quality of UNO’s academic programs is a main factor in reaching enrollment goals, Christensen said.
This year, UNO welcomed the most new hires of faculty and staff Christensen can recall.
Athletic Training, Speech Language Pathology, School Psychology, Computer Science, Management Information Systems, Public Administration and Air Transport Administration all received reaccreditation after undergoing extensive self-evaluation and national reviews.
UNO also added new degree options in Exercise Science, Information Assurance, Emergency Management and others.
“2011 and 2012 was a watershed year for UNO student athletes, coaches and staff, department leadership and all of us who wear our Maverick pride on our sleeves or hold it close to our hearts,” Christensen said.
Christensen called the decision to eliminate football and wrestling “very difficult and personally painful.”
For the first time in 11 years, the athletic department closed out the fiscal year in the black.
The future of athletics is bright, Christensen said. UNO has agreements to play basketball at the new Ralston Arena and softball at the new Hillside Park complex. UNO is also a founding member of Division-I’s new hockey conference.
Christensen also commended student athletes. UNO’s student athletes earned a cumulative GPA of 3.2.
“Our student athletes, another albeit more informal learning community, continue to represent our Maverick spirit well, both on and off the field,” Christensen said.
The university developed a new brand identity with athletics as a driving factor. With the transition to Division-I, UNO has been given opportunities for national and regional television and other media exposure.
NBC will air up to six UNO hockey games on the NBC Sports Network this year. UNO has created commercials to air during the games. At the end of Christensen’s address, he played the full length version.
UNO’s future holds a lot. A “one of a kind” Community Engagement Center will set the standard of university engagement, Christensen said. The Community Engagement Center will be one of two new buildings going up on campus.
Construction will also begin on the world’s first free-standing facility exclusively dedicated to Biomechanics research.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for both facilities will be held on Oct. 24.
A 12-month, “trimester” academic pilot program will launch in May. This would make the summer semester more of a full semester like fall and spring. This program would take advantage of space and parking availability during the summer months. It would also create flexibility for students, faculty and programs.
“I think we’ve all sensed that potential for greatness, that certainly is UNO’s destiny,” Christensen said. “That horizon is in sight and potential is becoming a reality.”
James Reitmeier, a junior and Civil Engineering major, was one of many students who attended the address.
Reitmeier found the topics of growth in athletics and nationwide marketing important. It will make UNO more diversified, Reitmeier said.
“I felt having this chance was a great opportunity to get a full update,” Reitmeier said. “It’s one great source of information instead of getting bits and pieces of information here and there.”