By Preston Goforth
Beginning his second year as the president of Lander University, Richard Cosentino is confident that his plans for the direction of the university in the upcoming years will bring about a significant increase in its enrollment and in student experience. Cosentino noted that while a growth in enrollment is exciting, having more students on campus could pose several logistical challenges, which he said the university will handle as needed. Cosentino said that the main issue he is currently hearing about is parking.
Regarding the parking issue, President Cosentino described it as being a problem which he will address. He said that the current situation is magnified by parking demands changing with the time of day. According to Cosentino, certain times of the day see much higher demands for parking than others, such as a higher demand in the morning than in the late afternoon due to more students taking classes at those times. He noted that while it is currently problematic, the expected increase in students for next fall would further crowd Lander’s lots if the issue is not faced, saying “I recognize that there is a parking problem and understand how it could get worse.” He said that despite demands for parking changing throughout the day, the university will design a parking plan for maximum utilization, saying that a goal would be for everyone to be able to find a parking spot even in the higher-demand times of the day.
When the parking situation is addressed, Cosentino said that the university will develop a parking strategy and will share it with students, faculty, and staff. He explained that the parking strategy will be a long-term project and consist of two phases. The first phase President Cosentino described was a temporary solution, which he said would consist of cutting out gravel parking lots around campus. He added that the second phase is a permanent solution which will most likely involve constructing a parking deck. Cosentino said that the gravel lots will be a temporary fix and go into effect next fall, stating that even if Lander began construction for a parking deck this week that it would not likely be completed in time for the fall 2017 semester and will take longer to develop.
With a goal of having 3,000 students enrolled at Lander for the fall 2017 semester, President Cosentino is also preparing to accommodate the additional students with increased housing options. He said that the currently empty Brookside dorms which had been replaced by a new residence hall will be renovated and will reopen in the fall semester of next year, housing up to 260 students. Cosentino said that the field in front of the new residence hall will also be renovated and used for intramural sports and other recreational activities. The field renovation is part of a larger plan of Cosentino’s to improve the quality of the student’s college experience outside of the classroom at Lander University.
While emphasizing the importance of a student’s success academically, Cosentino said that two other areas he focuses on improving are the safety and wellbeing of the students and their experiences outside of the classroom. He said that some of the changes that he is implementing have come from suggestions of students and that he takes these suggestions very seriously when making decisions about student life at Lander. Cosentino said that the idea behind the recently installed “Eno Villages” around campus came from students’ suggestions, and that their locations on campus also came entirely from students. He added that when he sent the email to the student list about potential locations on campus that he received over a hundred responses in the hours that followed, and that the locations for the groups of hammocks were determined based on these responses. He noted that the Eno Villages have been well received, saying that he passes by some of them throughout the day and that they are usually filled.
Another request from students that Cosentino said he has received has been a fire pit to hold large bonfires when the weather gets cooler. President Cosentino said that the fire pit will be installed once the weather gets cooler, and that its location on campus, like the Eno Villages, will be determined by students. He said that he has heard a lot of excitement from students about being able to use the fire pit to have bonfires on campus.
Seeing an importance in students enjoying their college experience at Lander, Cosentino has also focused on another aspect of student life, which is eating on campus. He said that he wants for students to have options when eating on campus, and for the options to consist of food that the students will enjoy. He said that he decided to bring a name-brand Mexican restaurant to Lander due to its popularity with students, and announced at his State of the University Address last week that a Moe’s is scheduled to come next fall. Cosentino stated that Moe’s will be located in the Grier Student Center. In the unlikely event that franchising laws prevent a Moe’s, we will introduce a similar named brand Mexican restaurant.
Next to the Moe’s in the Grier Student Center next fall will be a renovated Bearcat Lounge, according to Cosentino. The updated Bearcat Lounge will be another idea which Cosentino said came from students. He noted that construction on the new Bearcat Lounge is planned to begin before the end of this semester and will be completed prior to the end of the spring 2017 semester. Lander’s president also added that the new Bearcat Lounge will be larger and will include newer features which are not in the current Bearcat Lounge.
For off-campus activities for students, Cosentino said that he would like for students to eventually have opportunities in Greenwood to participate in activities such as bowling and going to the movies for free by showing their student IDs. To assist students in participating in activities around Greenwood, Cosentino said that the university will be providing several options for transportation, beginning with a student bike rental program. He said that the bicycle program will allow for a student to rent a bike to ride around town by showing their student ID, and that the bicycles would be contained in “a physical structure” on campus. He further explained that the structures which will hold the bicycles will arrive by the end of October.
A second form of transportation around Greenwood that Cosentino said the university plans to offer will be a trolley. He noted that the university plans to purchase a trolley which would have a set schedule and a route that it would consistently follow. Regarding the route, Cosentino stated that he will also allow students to plan where they want the trolley to go around town, saying “The route that they want will be defined by them.” He added that a trolley will not be available until next fall. The trolley will be exclusive to Lander students, faculty, and staff, according to Cosentino, who explained that a Lander ID would be required to ride. While he said that he would like to have a “San Francisco-type” trolley, he noted that a trolley more closely resembling a bus is also a possibility.
While Cosentino sees an importance in a student’s college experience at Lander University, he explained that it is not the only factor he considers in plans to grow the university. He stated that a student’s success in the classroom and their preparation to enter the workforce are the highest priorities at Lander. Cosentino said that providing students with opportunities to be competitive in the workforce following their graduation is a topic of focus for the university.
In preparing students to enter the workforce, Cosentino noted the importance of internships, explaining that working an internship will be a competitive advantage for a graduate applying for a job, saying that a student’s experience from working an internship will be valuable to potential employers. To assist students in their preparation to enter the workforce, he said that the university will construct an Employment Center. The Employment Center at Lander will have two objectives, according to Cosentino. The two objectives are to help every student get an internship while in college, and to help every student get a job following graduation. He is confident that the Employment Center and the quality of education students receive in the classroom will allow for students to be fully prepared for life after graduation. Projecting the university’s growth and increased quality forecasted in the upcoming years, President Cosentino stated that a graduate will be proud to have earned their degree at Lander University.
By Preston Goforth