UT spending millions on campus beautification

Associated Press • Feb 15, 2013 at 12:23 PM

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee is taking what an official calls a “quantum leap” to make the Knoxville campus more attractive.

Officials say a more beautiful and welcoming campus is more than a point of pride. It’s also a selling point when prospective students and their parents tour UT.

Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for facilities, told the Knoxville News Sentinel the project will transform the view of the state’s nameplate university’s campus.

“That kind of quantum leap would set up a synergy of success that would begin to feed other projects, begin to help in terms of recruitment of students, recruitment of faculty, accelerated donations,” Irvin said.

Irvin said it isn’t that UT doesn’t have pretty places on its campus, but said they need to be knitted together.

“There are places around campus that would stack up against any campus around the country in terms of their beauty and look,” Irvin said. “The problem at UT is not that we don’t have great space, it’s that we don’t have a language and a linkage between those.

“It’s a series of isolated great spaces without a campus linking them together.”

The planned work will be funded largely through student activity fees. About $6 million has been collected, but more will be needed.

The project includes an end to on-street parking, addition of bicycle lanes and planting greenery to landscape Presidential Court and the engineering buildings.

UT was ranked No. 6 on the Princeton Review’s list of “least beautiful campuses.”

About 26,000 people tour the campus each year and part of the orientation is a walking tour through Presidential Court that passes nearly all of the planned beautification projects.

Laura Stansell, an assistant admissions director who oversees the Visitors Center, sees many of those visitors’ reactions.

“I think parents, especially, think about their child going away to campus and have a picturesque image. They want beautiful buildings with pillars and rolling green space, so when they see places like Presidential Court it’s a little bit of a downer,” Stansell said. “I don’t think students care as much as parents do, but obviously first impressions make a difference. When you see that bleak part of campus it can be a turn-off sometimes.”

Student Government President Adam Roddy said the projects are an ideal way to use student fees because students will be the ones living with the space every day.

Officials hope to complete the project by the end of 2014.

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