Construction on campus affects New Student Orientation sessions

Catherine Marfin

Students attending New Student Orientation on campus this summer will have to navigate around six major, multimillion dollar construction projects scheduled for development during the coming months.

UT’s 2012 Master Plan, which provides a long-term view of the business decisions and investments for the University, called for renovations and additions that would accommodate the growth of the student population as well as an enhancement and revitalization of the core campus — goals being met by projects like the Speedway and East Mall renovations, the reconstruction of Robert A. Welch Hall and the significant expansion of the Engineering Education and Research Center.

These projects, along with three other construction developments taking place on campus, have resulted in the closure of many of the roadways — most notably, major closures on 21st Street and Speedway. While some of these larger projects are on an expedited schedule with hopes of finishing before the fall semester, a final completion date has not been confirmed, said Laurie Lentz, communication director for university operations.

New Student Orientation began June 6, and sessions occur every Monday-Wednesday through July 13, meaning all of the sessions will be affected by the projects. Various road closures around campus have caused concerns among incoming freshmen who will be attending New Student Orientation through July.

New Student Services has worked with its various University partners, including Parking and Transportation Services, to notify and accommodate student and parent visitors while the roads are blocked.

“The main thing we are doing is shifting the locations of tours and events closer to the Brazos garage area in order to make a clear path and environment … usually, things would be closer to Jester,” said Celena Mondie-Milner, director of New Student Services. “We have also modified the tour route, so it passes through Gregory, as opposed to having to walk around the entire construction site.”

While larger construction projects are common during the summer, UT has experienced an increased amount of construction this year in an effort to accommodate growth, Lentz said.

“If you’re feeling like things are really busy this summer in terms of construction, you’re right,” Lentz said. “This is always a really busy time for these projects, but there has been a 20 percent increase in construction from last summer. There’s a lot going on.”

In addition to these larger projects, there are 140 smaller projects, such as bathroom renovations and additions to faculty offices on campus, scheduled for the summer. These smaller projects do not cause any road or building closures and will have minimal effects on New Student Orientation.

“I used to visit campus all the time when I was younger, since my dad is an [alumnus], but I still don’t know the campus all that well, and construction makes it so much worse,” said Isabel Russey, an incoming advertising freshman who attended the first orientation session. “It’s hard to imagine how it’s going to look when I actually attend school here. It’s still a beautiful campus, but I really hope it’s all finished by the time I get back here.”