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The Island

FAU recently hired a consultant to gauge the university's impact on the surrounding community, what it's doing well and how it could be doing better. Mixed responses abounded, of course, but I thought several suggestions in the report really stuck out:

     1) provide student interns through a central source (one participant of a focus group complained, "
         don't know who to contact to get students/interns for any of my projects!" - GREAT idea

     2) provide entertainment and more lecture series for the community - FANTASTIC

     3) Brief e-mails to individuals and business owners about what they'd like from FAU, especially
         outside of Boca Raton ("too Boca-centric"). The general idea here is to think of each campus as
         feeding students to the surrounding communities, not just Boca.

     4) Social interactions of the community with faculty. There was a LOT of talk about using faculty in
          various ways to allow people to get to know FAU and benefit from their experience.

     5) Alumni Association should be the "welcoming mat" of the university

     6) Perhaps an orientation for adults so they can get better acquainted with the university instead of
          "knowing it in fragments." ("Everyone in Boca knows about FAU, but they don?t know what it
          does."- Another AWESOME idea

      7) Communication issues are HUGE with FAU ("FAU isn't silos, it's eggs. Lots of talent but you can't
           get to it") which is just ridiculous. For some reason, it's been so hard for businesses, even in the
           Research Park, to get good people that the community basically stops trying.

      8) Launch an identity campaign of "Knowing the Unknown" so people can "get" FAU

      9) "Don't just be a university, be the university." Talk about a sweet slogan!

There was a lot of talk about how FAU is "insular" and doesn't do enough community outreach and when it does, it's usually to ask for money. "There?s a major disconnection with community leadership organizations, because athletics beat them up with fundraising requests." Ouch. I guess when you're "seen but not heard" as a major institution and the only time you come up to meet your neighbors is to pick their wallets, they're going to be hesitant.

It makes sense for us to start thinking about ways to incorporate the public into FAU better so it's not just OUR university as students/faculty/alumni but everyone's university. Give the Boca residents a reason to brag about FAU being in their backyard. Expand the sense of family and belonging to let them know that this isn't just about us taking up half your city with traffic and buildings, this is about creating a focal point for the City where everyone can access knowledge, resources, technology and entertainment. People in Boca Raton (and every city where FAU is located) should be beating their chests over pride for this university. And we have to give them more of a reason to do that, clearly.

"They clearly want FAU to be an integral part of their communities both to strengthen who they are and to give them ?crowing rights? with their friends around Gainesville and Tallahassee."

That said...


The community wanted a sense of controlled growth - something they've expressed before:

"While it may sound too glib, it is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of the community participants in Boca Raton would like to see FAU be highly competitive with the University of Florida and Florida State University, but they do not want the students to behave like the students at those two universities. There is clearly no desire on the part of this community to turn Boca into anything closely resembling a ?college town,? although most are happy to have the stadium and sports teams in their backyards. They want FAU to be a place that provides the advantages that a great university brings to a city: academic, healthcare and research assets that attract a talent pool, new businesses and cultural institutions."

Elsewhere it mentions how the community remembers how the students at UF and FSU "controlled those towns" and they "wanted to remind everyone that Boca was here before FAU."

Ooh, a turf war.


Regarding the students:

"The major focus of the students? conversation centered on the fact that they enjoy the University academically but that the community of Boca Raton stifles their ability to have fun and engage in social activities off-campus. The students? understanding of this fear is that Boca residents are afraid of Boca becoming like the communities around the University of Florida in Gainesville and Florida State University in Tallahassee. 

 The result of this is that FAU is set off like an island with very few restaurants, stores and other outlets that students can afford. (They note that they cannot afford the University Plaza, which has mainly high-end stores that serve the Boca community but not FAU students.) The students have proposed a safety van to take them to and from establishments that serve alcohol, but this has so far not been done. The Subway at the stadium is very good for them, but its service area is too small."

We've talked about a number of these complaints before - University Plaza IS too expensive for students and the FAU administration continues to ignore this issue - so I won't retread that territory right now. An on-call safety van is an interesting idea but I'm not too sure how the pricing structure works since I wasn't able to find a comparable service online. Does an entity like Traffic&Parking or Student Government pay a flat annual fee like for the shuttles? Or do the students pay every time they use it, like a taxi, and in that case why not just use a taxi? I assume it's the former and I wonder how many of these would be available and how many people would "abuse" it. Still, I think it's an idea worth exploring.

One of the nice things about the University Boulevard idea (where 20th street gets re-purposed and redeveloped for college-specific development) is the suggestion that it could line up a main street of college bars and students could be within walking distance of campus, something Night Owl/O'Brien's/Wishing Well/Funky Buddah/Irishmen couldn't really claim. Furthermore, there's really not a lot of traffic along that route (currently) so you shouldn't stumble into traffic too often. And having all the bars in that one place means you could conceivably run NightOwls (the campus golf-cart service) down and pick people up from there. We're already providing that service (and they don't get as many calls as you'd think) so it would be easy to add a couple more carts and have them run service to/from University Boulevard. In fact on the weekends I'd imagine that being its main purpose because come on, nobody needs to ride NightOwls from HPT to the Caf (and they currently run that route a lot more than they should)

Yet in order to truly sell the University Boulevard idea to potential developers, the university may have to branch out from The Island and make more appearances at City Council meetings and other places. Could we get people to do it as things are now, sure. But if we want people to build these kinds of places and invest so much money and man hours into it, it would be so much better if they were more than just people looking to make a buck and actual fans of the university as well. To people like that - the kind who build places like The Swamp restaurant in Gainesville - it's not just about selling appetizers, it's about being a part of the university and contributing to the college experience. Imagine if they could do that here.

We don't have to be an island.



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