According to the Feb. 7 New York Times, numerous rural colleges plan to urbanize their campuses for a more modern feel that many current students are seeking. Many campuses that had previously advertised a bucolic environment to appeal to prospective students have found that students today are looking for more urban surroundings.
p. The majority of the universities with urbanization plans have large tracts of unused land that they feel can be successfully developed not only to benefit the social lives of students, but also to help build their endowments.
p. These universities include the University of Connecticut, the University of Notre Dame, Furman University, Hampshire College and Hendrix College.
p. Hendrix is about to begin construction on a large village that has stores, restaurants and offices on 130 acres of land across the street from the campus. A student fitness center is also under construction.
p. The land was previously open woods and fields, but administrators have determined that students at the college would rather have a wider variety of social activities than a scenic view.
p. “I think students crave the kind of vitality you have in an urban space,” J. Timothy Cloyd, Hendrix president, told the Times.
These universities hope that by developing a downtown area, the rural colleges will appeal to more students. However, they have also realized that in addition to benefiting the social lives of students, these new developments can appeal to an older crowd. Additions such as the one at Hendrix include single-family houses, town houses, apartments and condominiums.
p. “It’s part of a pattern of colleges and universities realizing that they have elements that are appealing to a population far broader than 18- to 25-year-olds. It’s often said of a college education, ‘It’s a shame it’s wasted on the young,’” Ralph J. Hexter, president of Hampshire College, said.
p. The recent opening of the New Town development in Williamsburg seems to be a similar attempt at urbanization to improve the variety of social activities for students at the College. New Town’s attractions include stores, restaurants and a movie theater.
p. The downsides of New Town are that it is far away from the campus and students have to drive to get there.
p. “The culture of William and Mary is extremely pedestrian-oriented,” Student Assembly Sen. Matt Beato, a sophomore, said. “You can see this by how often students go to Wawa to get something to eat as opposed to, say, Food Lion … As a result, entertainment needs to be in the areas that are within walking distance of the campus.”
p. Beato says that the best option for improving social activities on campus is by developing the areas on Richmond Road around the delis and on Jamestown Road near the Campus Center by putting in more student-friendly businesses.
p. However, the general consensus among students at the College is that, despite the drive, New Town does provide more of a variety of social activities.
p. “I think that New Town has had a very positive effect on students at [the College]. A movie theater is much closer, there are more restaurants, stores and social outlets for students to go to, and it connects the campus to something beyond Duke of Gloucester street,” Jess Vance, senior class president, said.