The UT Tower in Austin’s skyline is a statewide symbol of UT. Kyle Field at A&M looms in the College Station horizon. At Memorial Circle, a Texas Tech seal signifies the main entry to the Lubbock campus. But what can we say about UTSA? What do we have?
A sporadically working fountain?
A border-crossing statue?
The Sombrilla’s shade?
Last year, UTSA’s budget included $4 million for the Graduation Rate Improvement Plan (GRIP), according to the UT System Operating Budget. This cost paid for new faculty to improve class scheduling, programs to improve math and science proficiency for first-year students, scholarship incentives for students graduating within four years and costs associated with the Freshmen Focus Initiative, which was formulated to help students succeed academically.
While these are all important elements to increase student retention rates, UTSA should think even broader. What makes students choose UT or A&M or Texas Tech over UTSA? Perhaps traditions, and the symbols those universities carry.
With a fraction of the million-dollar GRIP budget, UTSA could also focus on improving campus atmosphere. Giving students a symbol — something to show their friends when they come into town, something to take pictures in front of — could potentially make them feel more connected to the university and less likely to drop out or transfer, thus working in tandem with GRIP.
The main campus even has a great location for such a symbol: the new green space on the north side of campus.
The recent completion of the Bauerle Road garage project cost the university roughly $40 million, according to the UTSA Office of Facilities, $29.8 million for the garage, offices and welcome center. The other $10.2 million was used for the construction of the Peace Roundabout, main campus entry signs and green space — what is collectively called the Campus Oval.
So few students currently frequent the green space, which is on a far corner of campus and bordered with administrative offices, bus stops and ridiculous $785-per-year garage parking. Since the Campus Oval came at a hefty price, why not give students a good reason to spend time there? Give students a better, more recognizable place to congregate other than under the Sombrilla by constructing a statue, monument or icon for UTSA students to call their own.
Something that can start a tradition.
Something to make students proud of their campus.
Something that can serve as a strong, unifying symbol of UTSA.