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Creating a Sense of Place more than a physical matter
by Nancy L. Zimpher, president
"There's no place like home" is a sentiment shared by many as well as a quote perpetuated by a 19th century song and a line from Dorothy in the movie version of "The Wizard of Oz."
But at the University of Cincinnati, we'd like to make it, "There's no place like UC."
That idea sums up, in essence, what the fifth goal of our strategic vision, UC|21: Defining the New Urban Research University, is all about. Our aspiration to "Establish a Sense of Place" perhaps represents one of the more difficult concepts of UC|21 to grasp. But at its core, it means that we collectively envision a university environment that evokes profoundly positive emotions among our students, alumni, faculty, staff and other visitors, and keeps them coming back again and again.
Over the course of 15 years, UC experienced a major transformation of its physicality, attracting worldwide accolades. The natural next step now is to take that renaissance to another level by becoming a place where members of the campus community and the community at large want "to spend time learning, living, playing and staying."
Clearly, when we talk about "a sense of place," we're not limiting our discussions or ideas to physical spaces. We're stretching the context to include a spirit of community and sense of belonging -- what we commonly refer to now as "We're all UC," whether you're a student, alumnus, professor or administrator. Our context for goal No. 5 also encompasses the connections that build bridges and collaborations across all our UC campuses, as well as meaningful and well-attended rituals such as New Student Convocation, Commencement, Homecoming and our new tradition of the MainStreet Stride, a springtime parade of red and black.
In truth, some challenges exist in meeting our aspirations to create a "sense of place," but there are signs that we are making tremendous progress. Increasing numbers of people participate in student orientation visits, which bring many alumni, now parents, back to campus for the first time in years. More often than not, these returnees, as well as the prospective freshmen who come with them, are amazed by what they see and experience on campus. As a result, for the new class entering in 2007, we had to establish a waiting list for the first time in history.
Perhaps this proves that one of the initial steps in establishing "a sense of place" at UC is getting people to visit and see for themselves. I encourage you to visit, along with your family and friends.
UC has so much to offer -- from annual traditions like Homecoming to beautiful spaces like Campus Green and Bearcat Mews, and hundreds and hundreds of sporting and cultural events. I am confident you, too, will be "wowed" by what you see and experience. And hopefully you will help spread the good news that truly there's no place like UC.