There's been a lot of buzz surrounding UCF's future downtown campus. But until now, students had to rely on their imagination to see what the campus will look like.
UCF's decision to expand downtown was impacted by the success story of Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix campus, which currently has a student population of more than 10,000 students. ASU impacted the university's vision for the project as well.
"What I saw at the ASU campus in Downtown Phoenix was compelling, and it got me thinking about the future of UCF and our strong ties with the city of Orlando," Hitt said at the breakfast.
After Hitt visited the ASU campus, he said he realized that great metropolitan downtown areas have a strong higher-education presence.
Wellington "Duke" Reiter, senior adviser to the president at ASU, said he thinks UCF will enjoy a lot of success in the downtown area.
"Even though Orlando is different from Phoenix, the similarities are fascinating," Reiter said.
ASU and UCF are the two largest universities in the U.S., both rapidly growing with populations that need to be served.
Reiter said both universities have great education and leadership, and said he thinks they should both thrive in their downtown expansion.
ASU initially decided to expand to the downtown area in late 2003 after Reiter and others realized they couldn't have a great city without a great university close to its urban center. Reiter said he wanted the university to be there to help the city become even more of a vital place to be.
"We were anxious to establish campus there. We wanted students to have an urban opportunity available to them," Reiter said.
The College of Nursing & Health Innovation and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication are just a few of the colleges that were moved to Downtown Phoenix to allow students greater opportunities in those fields.
Journalism students, for example, have the opportunity to conduct interviews and take on internships in the lively area, while nursing students can intern in downtown hospitals.
"The activities of the schools are enhanced by being downtown," Reiter said. "I think the mutual benefit between the city and the university reveals itself pretty quickly. It will mature over time."
The downtown expansion, for both ASU and UCF, is essentially all about the students and the relationships they create, said Marcus Jones, an ASU class of 2013 graduate.
A lot of the programs in Downtown Phoenix are professionally based, which is what students love, Jones said.
After working with both Hitt and Reiter, Jones said UCF's downtown expansion will most likely follow in ASU's steps of creating a professional-based learning environment for students.
"It's going to be a fun, whimsical, professional and very community-driven program," Jones said. "I think UCF will definitely benefit from [the downtown expansion]."
Weston Bayes, UCF Student Government Association president, has a similar outlook on the expansion, and said being more involved in the downtown area could be a great advantage for UCF.
"The potential for UCF to benefit from the expansion is huge," Bayes said. "Expanding UCF's reach of influence is a priority in my mind, and being downtown would surely help in accomplishing that."
Because ASU has been able to create a self-sustaining campus involving wellness, student life and academics, Bayes said he believes UCF will be taking notes and advice on how to accomplish this impressive structure.
"At this point, UCF is in the exploration phase for the downtown campus. The project is extremely exciting, and I hope that my fellow peers will share the excitement as the process moves forward," Bayes said.