By CHRIS RYSKAMP
When students first arrive at The University of Tampa, they feel as if they are in paradise. The hundreds of palm trees, bright sunshine, warm weather and nearby white sand beaches makes UT feel more like a resort than a school. However, this vacation vibe soon dies down and students begin to realize that UT lacks many characteristics that most colleges have — ultimately leading them to question whether or not they should transfer to a different school. UT has previously struggled with keeping students enrolled and has a had a relatively high student-transfer rate.
Most individuals think of a typical college experience as tailgating before football games, living in a big fraternity or sorority house and walking on a campus where fellow students show their school spirit. It is apparent that UT lacks in these categories, but the school soon plans to provide students with a more college-like environment while still being located in a tropical paradise.
I have been enrolled at The University of Tampa since 2013 and have already seen numerous buildings go up and renovations be done. Over the past three years, UT built Jenkins Hall, The Palm Apartments, The John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center, The Innovation and Collaboration Building, and the new Fitness and Recreation Center. Renovations have been done on McKay Hall, Thomas Parking Garage, Plant Hall, the UT pool, the Macdonald Kelce Library and many of the campus’s streets. Accordingly, what used to be known as “Res Com” was recently torn down over the summer and is where they are now building phase II of the Palm Apartments.
So for all incoming students, keep in mind that none of this was here three years ago. If the school can accomplish all of this over such a short period of time, just imagine what they can do in the long term.
The university recently purchased even more land directly west of campus to continue their innovation on the campus. Many do not know this, but UT is one of the fastest growing universities in the country, having over a 324 percent increase in applicants over the past 10 years. I predict that this number will continue to grow.
The future of Tampa is very promising for UT students. Once again, let’s establish the fact that UT is located downtown, which is a city in the midst of a multi-billion dollar expansion project funded by the richest man in the world and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates.
Many would agree that downtown can be referred to as one of the “smallest big cities” in the U.S. From my point of view, downtown Tampa is broken up into four sections: the inner city, Channelside, Harbor Island, and of course, The University of Tampa. Each section is unique in its own way and presents many activities for residents to participate in. However, there is an incredibly large amount of underdeveloped land in these sections, which makes downtown seem extremely spread out.
Since I became a student here in 2013, I have recognized these gaps and have always seen this underdeveloped land as an opportunity to grow the city. Apparently Tampa Bay Lightning owner, Jeff Vinik, and Gates, thought the same thing.
In 2014, Vinik invested several billion dollars into the development of downtown Tampa, specifically in the Channelside area. Shortly after, Gates also recognized the city’s potential and partnered with Vinik to help finance the investment. These two billionaires share the same ideas and goals; that is, ultimately, to make downtown Tampa one of the highest-demanded cities to live in throughout the U.S.
The Vinik team plans to build two 75-story residential towers in Channelside, which would make them the second largest residential towers in the U.S. The project also plans to expand the Port of Tampa. I see this as a huge opportunity for the city’s potential growth. Port expansion will enable cruise lines to dock a vaster fleet of ships, which will attract more tourists to the city and create a higher demand for hotels, restaurants and entertainment. I believe numerous buildings will continue to be built and eventually fill these empty gaps in downtown Tampa.
When the project was revealed to the public in 2014, the Vinik team predicted the city’s development would be done in 15 years. I, on the other hand, think the project will take a bit longer. One recommendation I would give to the Vinik organization is to give the project an official name. I believe naming the project would make it much more marketable and grow Tampa’s reputation even bigger.
Companies located downtown have always seen UT as a well-respected school, offering students countless opportunities in internships and other types of job possibilities. As both the city and school continue to prosper, I believe there will be a drastic increase in the amount of opportunities presented for students to excel in.
My main message for students reading this is to stay at The University of Tampa and truly consider the potential a UT degree could be worth one day. You are currently enrolled in one of the fastest growing universities in the country, which plans to continue innovating and providing you with even more chances to thrive in your career.
Also, think about the opportunities this city could present to yourself in the future. No, downtown Tampa will not look like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, etc. in 3 to 4 years. But in over a decade, this city may inch its way into that category.
All of this will not be done overnight and with graduation looming, students should definitely seek short-term opportunities. However, I think it is critical that students also take into account the long-term success this city and school could bring to them in the distant future.
I thought about transferring during my sophomore year due to the factors I previously elaborated on, but making the decision to stay was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am now proud to say I am a student at The University of Tampa and live in Tampa, Fla.— the school and city of opportunity.
Chris Ryskamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.