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Trustees adopt three-year strategic initiatives, dedicate new commons building

Union University dedicates the new Kathryn S. Bowld Student Commons building.
Union University dedicates the new Kathryn S. Bowld Student Commons building.

JACKSON, Tenn.Dec. 4, 2009 – Union University trustees adopted a new short-term plan, emphasizing qualitative enhancements to the university’s work and mission, that will guide Union for the next three years.

“Renewing Minds: Union 2012,” which trustees unanimously approved at their Dec. 4 meeting, is designed to help the university reclaim and apply the Christian intellectual tradition in a grace-filled community consisting of students, faculty and staff who love God with their hearts as well as their minds. It allows for Union to take time to enhance efforts that strengthen its commitment to delivering top-tier, Christ-centered higher education.

Also during their meeting, trustees participated in the dedication of the new Kathryn S. Bowld Student Commons building. The commons building is the last of the structures to be replaced on the Union campus following the Feb. 5, 2008, tornado that caused more than $40 million in damage. The new facility is almost twice the size of the old Hurt and Watters commons buildings combined.

The 30,000-square-foot building will be completed in January and open for student use when the spring semester starts in early February. It includes apartments for two residence directors, a large multi-purpose room, three classrooms, two kitchens, game room, conference rooms, piano room, band practice room, TV rooms and gathering areas, outdoor built-in grills and outdoor patio space on both the first and second floors.

Union University President David S. Dockery said the “Renewing Minds: Union 2012” plan is an extension of the commitments found in the last three long-range plans – concluded in 2001, 2005 and 2010 -- that have directed the university’s work since Dockery’s election as president in 1996.

“The 2012 plan is therefore a clarion call to re-emphasize our foundational commitments, including our identity, our Christ-centered mission and our liberal arts heritage,” Dockery said. “The plan calls for all departments, schools and disciplines across campus to join together in seeking to reclaim the Christian intellectual tradition. The emphasis is less on the new and novel and more on qualitative commitments to enhance and strengthen the many, many good things taking place at Union University.”

In addition to the current construction projects across the campus, the plan calls for Union to construct six new campus housing buildings on the west side of Walker Road. The buildings will be arranged in two quads which will be identical to the quads on the east side of the road that were built after the 2008 tornado destroyed the existing housing complexes. Three buildings, constituting three-fourths of one quad, will be complete by the fall semester of 2010, providing about 150 new residential rooms for students.

Three additional buildings in a second quad will be complete by the end of 2012. The final two buildings that will complete each quad will be constructed sometime after 2012.

The plan also calls for a commitment to the further development of Union’s honors and Gateway programs. Gateway is a semester-long course for all incoming freshmen and transfers that provides an introduction to the intellectual life at Union. The class includes four plenary sessions that address such topics as the Christian faith, the university’s liberal arts foundation, cultural engagement and the Christian worldview. Students then in smaller groups, led by various faculty members, spend multiple weeks discussing each of the topics from the plenary sessions and their application to the core curriculum.

The Gateway program, which was revised for the fall of 2009, is designed to strengthen the first-year experience of Union students. The university’s Honors Community, which builds upon the current honors program, is designed to provide highly academically qualified students with the social, intellectual and material resources to develop their gifts.

The new plan also includes:

The plan also provides for the construction of a road on the 55 acres of land that Union owns along Interstate 40 at exit 83, as the university continues to develop strategies for the future use of that property. In addition, the plan lays the groundwork for numerous other initiatives at the university to be developed after 2012.

Dockery said “Renewing Minds: Union 2012” recognizes “the challenges of the economic times in which we find ourselves and is therefore prudent and cautious, while at the same time providing bold and visionary steps for the future.”

Gene Fant, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the strategic plan “is a bold step toward the continued enhancement of the university’s overall excellence, which is rooted in our distinctive mission.”

“It extends the kind of forward thinking that has led us to this point in the university’s history by preparing for the challenges that will face us in the coming years,” Fant said. “I am particularly excited at the prospect of exploring how our distinctive liberal arts foundation can merge with our graduate and professional programs to create innovative opportunities for our students and the rest of our community. I am hopeful that the plan will continue the outright transformation of the university into a national and, indeed, international leader in higher education.”

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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