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It's the Little Things

The story goes that when FAU President Anthony Catanese (1990-2002) first arrived at FAU, the thing that bothered him most was the view of campus itself. "One of the reasons I almost didn't come here was there were no trees," Catanese told the Sun Sentinel. "It was barren, and I thought if a place doesn't look good, why would you want to go there?"

It's a good point, even though it doesn't sound like such a big deal. You're here for an education, right, you're not here for trees. But little things like that can have a big effect on a person's happiness and their perception of an institution as a "right fit." Some universities know this, which is why they try to frame pictures like this and put it on their webpages.

You may not care about trees or flowers but subconsciously you care when they're not there. Fortunately, Catanese doubled the number of trees on campus during his tenure, bringing us the variety of oaks, palms and even the huge banyan trees that now mark the Campus Green (have we ever considered naming those big banyan trees? Give them a name and have a ceremonial sign planted nearby, so students are inspired to "take care of our trees").

Additionally, FAU is interested in pushing forward with more flowering plants and we've started to see that pop up here and there. Over time, the campus should become even nicer, integrating concrete planters to prevent students from walking or biking through the gardens. This works twofold since it provide more much needed outdoor seating as well. Students themselves have begun adding to the botanical wealth, as small gardens have popper up by GPT and IRT, where students can go out and work on the garden.

Honestly, I'd like to see what could be done with a landscape architect and a considerable budget. There are a lot of cool things you can do with plants and gardens:

For instance, the University of Southern California (USC) uses bushes to spell out their name in front of the library. Thanks Wikipedia.

What about a small orange grove on campus, where students could grow and pick oranges? We're Florida Atlantic University, after all, and a lot of students come here from out-of-state for the "Florida lifestyle"... so why not play it up? It could be fenced in and monitored. It would definitely be unique.

What if we had painted trees near the Visual Arts complex?

According to FAU library's Digital Records collection, a reflecting pool was originally envisioned for the east side of the Breezeway by the library:

There was even an initiative to create "themed gazebos" for each individual college that would be placed by the building where most of the classes were. That could be interesting - would that mean the Engineering gazebo would have moving parts?


Making FAU feel like a "real college" to people was about more than just adding trees, of course. A big part of it was injecting spirit. Years ago I put together a proposal for campus banners on the streetlights. I even went out, on foot, and counted all the poles that could serve as hosts for the project. The banner project was originally viewed with some hesitance due to cost, though everyone agreed we needed to push forward on it. Two SGA administrations later and bam, the banners went up. First they went up on Lee Street (now North University), then along Diversity Way, then in the housing area themselves and finally, perhaps most importantly, out along Glades Road. Even though people were concerned that Boca was going to take offense to this, the City Council was actually very supportive, going out of their way to amend sign codes to allow it to happen. Their only stipulation was that we did it tastefully, which we have.

Speaking of Glades Road, I heard a rumor that Saunders was interested in getting "GO OWLS" painted on the two water towers along the north side of Glades Road before you get to campus... that may be a little harder sell but I'm all for it.

So we added trees, we added flowers, we added banners, we put in red brick pavers (a 'classic' college look) in various sidewalks and footbridges, we've incorporated more red and blue into our color schemes (Student Union, GS, the pre-health office in S&E, etc) and we put up the Owl heads on both ends of the Breezeway. The bronze Schnellenberger statue went up in the stadium, I believe another one is on its way at the Sean Stein Pavillion, and there is an SGA plan for a replica of Schnellenberger's stump. A clock and fountain went up near the bookstore, creating Traditions Plaza.

All good things.

We went from being a "barren" wasteland with ugly pastel buildings to being a vibrant college atmosphere. We're still playing "catch-up" to older institutions but potential students and their parents are now taking tours and coming away impressed. They say we have a beautiful campus. They can feel our progress, our ambition, and out pride. It's there. It's palpable. And as long as we continue to build on the little things, we can do even bigger things in the future.



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