Updates About Important Strides at JU
March 24, 2015
To the JU community,
Welcome back from your brief spring break. Great progress is underway on campus, with fresh successes in just the past week hosting the Jacksonville Mayoral and Sheriff Debates and the 2nd and 3rd Rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Veterans Memorial Arena. Now I’d like to provide you with some exciting updates highlighting the important strides we are making here at Jacksonville University.
I also want to thank and congratulate all of you -- students, faculty and staff -- for creating an environment of excellence beyond anything our University community has experienced in years. We would not be moving forward with such deliberate speed without the commitment and dedication we are seeing from all of you every day.
First, let me especially applaud our new leaders of the JU Student Alliance (JUSA): President, Cody Foxwell; Vice President, Evens Blanc; Arts & Sciences Representatives, Ben Leong, Cindy Leong and Lovely Valbrun; Health Sciences Representative, Ryan Wagner; DCOB Representatives, Allie Hulbert, Adam Stenson and Gabriela Lovera; and Fine Arts Representative, Gabriela Roque. Congratulations on stepping into these important leadership roles. We look forward to working closely with each of them.
Next, we should all acknowledge the latest accomplishments of three of our esteemed faculty and staff members: Sociology Professor Nathan Rousseau, whose outstanding book "Society Explained" was recently named one of the Top 25 academic books of 2014 by the American Library Association; Cross Country/Track & Field Head Coach Ron Grigg, who with his latest title earlier this month has now been named A-Sun Coach of the Year for indoor, outdoor and cross country an incredible 20 times in his career; and Sociology Professor Heather Downs, who in April will be honored as one of the Jacksonville Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” who represent Northeast Florida’s brightest, most-promising professionals. These are outstanding individuals whose pursuit of excellence embodies the spirit of JU.
In addition, our student-athletes continue to excel both on the athletic field and in the classroom. While recently earning our 15th championship in 18 months, our student-athletes boast a 3.3 average GPA, while 15 of our 19 NCAA Division-I sports have a 3.0 GPA or better.
As we approach the conclusion of our academic year, I’d also like to update you on some of the encouraging developments and opportunities in front of us. I hope you’ll share them and keep them in mind in your discussions as you interact with those inside and outside the JU community:
- This week, on Wednesday, March 25, everyone on campus is invited as our JU Dolphins soccer team takes the field at 7 p.m. at Southern Oak Stadium against the professional Jacksonville Armada FC. The game is part of the Armada FC Four-team Challenge that will also bring FC Edmonton and the Tampa Bay Rowdies to the stadium at 5 p.m. the same day.
- On March 31, JU begins an exciting new tradition with our Day of Giving, a 24-hour online event in which we encourage the JU community and friends to make a gift to support current students and celebrate philanthropy. The goal is to preserve and enhance the unique experience that brings so many people here every year: from our riverfront campus to the close-knit classes that provide students with personal attention. Prizes will be awarded, too, including a Craft beer tasting party, Twilight boat tour, Skeet Shooting lessons and a Homecoming & Family Weekend VIP Package. I invite you to spread the word using hashtag #JUGives – and, to have some fun.
- From April 7-12, I invite you to explore One Spark in downtown Jacksonville. Billed as the world’s largest crowdfunding festival, it allows creators, artists, entrepreneurs and innovators to pitch their projects in a 20-square block area of downtown Jacksonville. This year, JU will have its biggest presence ever as it hosts nine Creators in its venue at Main and Forsyth streets. Two of the Creators are JU professors with projects that include 3D printing and global business strategy, and JU’s own music and video production studio is also participating. Other entrepreneurs in our venue have projects involving satellite technology, developing financial smartphone apps and promoting healthy living through bamboo products. Visit our venue and hear pitches from these and other Creators. Last year, more than 260,000 people attended the festival. Plan to take the free water taxi from campus to downtown again this year, from 5-11 p.m. Friday, April 10; 5-11 p.m. Saturday, April 11; and 1-6 p.m. Sunday, April 12. Join in on this exciting event.
- On April 16, we start another new tradition: our JU Charter Day of Service. We are hard at work on an ambitious program in which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can volunteer and provide help at more than a dozen venues throughout Arlington and Jacksonville as we give back to the community. We expect well more than 700 participants, and thanks to the vision and forward planning of our faculty, all classes will be suspended for the day. We invite every member of the JU community to sign up and take part in volunteer activities that morning. There is no shortage of fulfilling projects from which to choose. You can help a veteran, support our elderly, take care of the environment, nurture our youths with special needs or lend a hand in many more areas. For more information and to sign up for a particular project, visit www.SignUpGenius.com/go/20F0844A4A82BA7F58-charter.
- On that same day, we then invite all of you to our River House for a celebratory lunch, as we transition from a morning of service to an afternoon and evening celebrating the conclusion of our 80th year as an institution of higher learning. Highlights include an evening celebration from 8 to 11 p.m. featuring music, activities, desserts and fireworks.
- On April 25, our Spring Commencement celebration features the awarding of degrees to our 2015 graduating class, and the presentation of an honorary degree to, and keynote address by, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Aside from these exciting events coming up and dates to remember, there are a handful of advances under way that you should take pride in as we continue our journey of growth and improvement. Much time, energy and effort is being put into our academic, study and lab spaces; into maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty of our campus; into sustaining its walkability; and into improving our dining offerings, safety and security, conveniences and accessibility.
We’re dramatically improving study spaces across campus. Work will begin shortly on a completely revitalized Nelms Plaza, creating an outdoor space with comfortable furniture, awnings, lighting, cabanas and plug-in stations that combine to provide a new collaborative study area. We are adding this and other outdoor study spaces to take advantage of our beautiful setting and incredible weather, and you will soon see us adding outdoor seating, tables, lighting and plantings in study spaces in a number of areas throughout the campus.
In addition, as we continue to enhance the overall student experience, we’re very close to finalizing plans for a series of new collaborative indoor study spaces in a number of our existing buildings, to add greater comfort, better technology and more accessibility for students, faculty and staff. Picture comfortable furniture and ample room in our residence hall lobbies to study around the clock or gather with friends; or more and better furniture at the River House; or inviting study and meeting spaces in the "knuckles" at the ends of each hallway in Oak Hall. This is all part of a larger effort to capitalize on and enhance the interdisciplinary and collaborative learning among students in varied fields of study that our University is becoming known for.
Second, we’re making a major investment in the coming months in a fully refurbished Fitness Center, including thousands of dollars of brand new fitness equipment for all of our students.
Third, our new 274-unit residence hall on North Campus will be completed in the coming months, as we begin to connect undergraduates with our juniors and seniors in apartment living, as well as with our River House and on down to the waterfront with all the activities it now offers, and soon will have to offer.
Finally, in recognition of perhaps one of the most pressing fundamental accommodations an active center of higher learning can provide to traditional and non-traditional students, we are well under way with a campus-wide review of how best to improve parking here on campus, with multiple new locations to increase mobility and convenience.
As we commit to becoming a premier institution, we continue to ask you to make your voice heard, so that we can act whenever possible on your ideas and suggestions. Interaction among our faculty, students, staff and administration must continue to be our hallmark. When we support one another, incredible things can and do happen.
We’ll continue to make comprehensive, detailed assessments for the next wave of upgrades to make this a premier learning institution with an appealing environment, and you’ll be hearing more about those investments in the months to come.
I thank you and wish all of you well as we approach the final stretch of a remarkable academic year, and as we experience even more great moments between now and May 1.
Class of 1981