Dozens of dignitaries, business people and residents got an eyeful and earful of the progress sweeping across Jacksonville University’s campus on Wednesday, Aug. 14, as the University hosted an #ilovejax Chamber of Commerce tour.
“This is a town of unusual goodwill toward Jacksonville University,” JU President Tim Cost told visitors at a reception before the tour at the Davis College of Business. “We know that when we represent JU, we are representing something very special. We now have an opportunity to connect with the chamber and the business community in a strong way.”
Welcomed by Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce President Daniel Davis and JU Board of Trustees Chair Fred Pruitt, the audience was turned loose across campus on golf carts — but not before Cost asked them to “open your minds and hearts to JU.”
“The investments we are making here are all at their core aimed toward ensuring student success. We have a solid liberal arts core, with the muscle of close-to-market signature programs built around that core.”
Cost ticked off recent accomplishments for JU, which now has about 4,000 students: Its MBA program is now in the top 100 accredited programs in North America; its Public Policy Institute offers the first Master in Public Policy Program in Florida; it has the largest Orthodontics certification program in the country and third-largest NROTC program; and students in its fast-growing Nursing program achieved a 98.65 percent state licensure exam pass rate for 2012, one of the top outcomes in the state.
Tour-goers had a chance to see and hear about the extensive dining remodeling process of the Riverview Café at the Kinne Center and the addition of Chick-fil-A to the Davis Student Commons; the $6.5 million, 32,000-square-foot “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) GOLD certified Marine Science Research Institute; a planned $7.5 million basketball and volleyball practice facility; a $200,000, 3,000-square-foot softball facility opening in fall 2013; a $4.2 million project adding 4,500 seats to the football and lacrosse stadium; the new $8 million, 30,000-square-foot College of Health Sciences building under construction; a new Student Veterans Center
coming online this fall; the $150,000 W.C. and Susan Gentry Nature Preserve and Boardwalk that opened last year; the Swisher Golf Practice Facility and Larry Strom Amphitheatre on Dolphin Green; and, in a move sure to excite students, faculty, staff and alumni, a $1 million remodeling of the River House into a campus gathering spot with technology, food, craft brew pub, conference rooms, outdoor party deck, fire pit, entertainment stages and more.
(See a photo gallery and .pdf of the tour highlights below).
“Dolphin Green is just really knocking my socks off,” said Shelley Morgan, director of Affinity Relations for Coldwell Banker in Jacksonville. “I didn’t know all this was here. And Tim Cost is just a great shot in the arm for JU, with all his business experience.”
James Johns, a 1991 Physics and Engineering JU grad, came back to see all the developments he’s been hearing about.
“The percentage of growth at JU in recent years has just been huge,” said Johns, President of Solid Rock Engineering in Jacksonville. “You can see the investment, both in terms of money and passion, that is going on here. Just look around even at the design: the new buildings seem to blend in with the older buildings that I remember. And since Tim Cost got here, all I’m hearing from faculty is about the tremendous change going on, and the feedback has all been positive.”