A new UCF campus is one step closer to calling Downtown Orlando home. Video by Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future
A new UCF campus is one step closer to calling Downtown Orlando home.
After hearing testimonials from university President John C. Hitt, Provost Dale Whittaker, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and others on Wednesday, all but two of 16 members of the Florida Board of Governors voted yes to the creation of a downtown campus, which will cost approximately $60 million.
“Twenty-four years ago yesterday, I became UCF’s president. In all the years since, few moments have been as important as today,” Hitt said. “Today, we can plant a seed in downtown Orlando that will benefit our students, community and state for decades to come.”
The decision comes after UCF raised $16 million in private donations from the Orlando Magic, Universal Orlando Resort and others as part of its goal of $20 million. Hitt said he will soon share how UCF obtained the remaining $4 million.
Two of the main goals the downtown campus hopes to achieve are to produce “employment-ready graduates” and to encourage high-school students in the Parramore area of Downtown Orlando to attend college.
“The programs we are moving to UCF Downtown are focused in three primary clusters: digital entertainment and communications, health technology and administration, and public service, including legal studies,” Whittaker said.
The hope is that the downtown campus will give its students a leg up because of its proximity to the fields in which students will be studying.
“Students with more opportunity for field-related work, field-related internships perform better and have a leg up on employment opportunities upon graduation,” said UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena. “If you consider the list of majors that we are proposing to move downtown, you will see a marked increase in the number of firms engaged in those fields downtown and therefore an increase in opportunity for hands-on experience.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he believes the project will be transformational for the area of Parramore.
“The revitalization of Parramore has been a priority for our community for more than a decade,” Dyer said.
Board of Governors member Norman Tripp was happy to see a “presentation that spoke to the issues that I was concerned with regarding the effect this would have on the minority community,” as sometimes, he explained, programs that promise to help minorities often fall through.
The new academic building will be adjacent to a renovated Emerging Media building — the renovation of which is not part of the $60 million budget — and a privately funded building that will house Valencia’s culinary and hospitality program.
Land allotted to the project is open land, Dyer said, and there will be “no displacements of residences or businesses.”
One of the two members who voted no, Board of Governors member Dean Colson, said he believes that people should be skeptical of any new brick-and-mortar campuses and that “there is not a sufficient academic demand for a downtown campus.”
“I do not believe UCF is yet a great university and building another campus is not a step in becoming great,” said Colson, although he said he does understand the positive aspects, economically, that will come from this project.
The project funds will come in three parts of $20 million each: one part UCF funds, one part community support and one part state funding. UCF previously requested a much larger amount from the state — $58 million — and later reduced its request.
Board of Governors member Edward Morton said that even if not all funds can be obtained, UCF would draw from its reserves for the remaining funds.
From here, the Florida Legislator and Gov. Rick Scott would need to approve the project. If everything goes to plan, UCF hopes to open the campus in fall 2018.
Alexis Vilaboy is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.