The birth of a college town
by Kelly Griffith
May 2, 2006
Imagine driving into Pembroke as the dog days of summer come to a close. You find quaint bookstores and coffee shops bustling with UNCP students buying textbooks, getting their caffeine fix and preparing for the big game on Saturday.
Shop windows are decorated with black and gold signs and streamers honoring the football home opener. A rider pedals into a bicycle shop passing other students lined up to buy movie tickets down the street.
Pembroke would no longer be the sleepy town it once was.
An outside view
Today, it's anything but a bustling college town, although it could be. Dr. Blake Gumprecht, a geography professor at the University of New Hampshire who writes about college towns and their makeup, said he believes Pembroke already contains aspects of a college town.
"If you look at some basic measures, things you can find out from a distance, then it would seem that Pembroke would qualify in terms of ratio of enrollment at the university to total population of the town," Gumprecht said.
Fitting the model
College towns are youthful places, Gumprecht said. The 2000 Census said the median age for Pembroke residents is 27.3 years old.
The income of town residents should be high, he said. Pembroke residents accumulate $21,218 annually within a family and the national median family income stood at $50,890 in 2000, according to the Census.
A diverse population is key in a college town, Gumprecht said. Although UNCP prides itself on its diversity of students, that hasn't overflowed into the town of Pembroke.
According to the Census, American Indians make up 81.7 percent of town residents. White, Black, Asian, Oriental and mixed races compose the other 18.3 percent.
"Some of what you may be noticing to be things where Pembroke doesn't fit my model, have to do with the peculiarities of the local situation," Gumprecht said.
Exceptions to the rule
He said there are some exceptions to the rule.
"College town characteristics tend to be more muted in such places," Gumprecht said of regional universities like UNCP.
He said diversity tends to be lower when the majority of students come from the surrounding town and adjacent counties.
"When people live that close Ð when the house they grew up in is that close to the school Ð people are much more likely, if they don't live in Pembroke, to go home on the weekends," Gumprecht said.
"They're not as anchored in the place as somebody coming from further away is."
Some unusual circumstances
UNCP's American Indian history makes the surrounding college town very unique, Gumprecht said.
"The fact that such a large percentage of the student body is still American Indian and that such a large percentage of the residents in Pembroke are American Indian, makes your situation somewhat anomalous to pretty much anywhere," Gumprecht said.
Many commuter students make UNCP more like an urban commuting university, he said. It reflects the unusual situation in Pembroke's town and university community.
No college town in the near future
Most universities grew in size during the 1950s and 60s, Gumprecht said. UNCP, however, has almost tripled its enrollment in the last 20 years.
"There's always a bit of a lag, I think, in how a town is transformed to reflect those changes," Gumprecht said. "There was more time to adjust to the changes that were taking place. You're in the midst of a lot of growth."
He said the town's business mix may not currently imitate the student body's growth, but within 15 years, it is possible that companies will move into Pembroke.
Braves drink here
The lack of bars in Pembroke quiets the college town feeling, Gumprecht said. The liquor law for Pembroke allows for ABC and grocery stores to sell alcohol; however, restaurants cannot sell it by the drink.
"If that law were eliminated, I guarantee you by next fall semester, there would be bars," he said. "There are students and comparatively students like to drink."
Students agree with Gumprecht's claim that bars are essential to the college experience.
"The town needs something for students to do. A bar doesn't mean just alcohol," UNCP graduate Nick Hoffman said. "It means a place to hang out, to shoot pool or watch the basketball game."
Sophomore mass communications major Annie Prewitt said serving alcohol in Pembroke would improve the town gown relationship.
"I think if we got a sports bar or if people would just be able to serve alcohol, it would make the school so much cooler and the relationship between the town and the students would be better," Prewitt said.
Laying down the law
Mark Schwarze, coordinator of the Coalition to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (C-PARC) – a program set up to reduce underage and high-risk drinking, said he believes that UNCP has a better chance of cutting down the number of underage drinkers on campus because the town does not allow bars.
He said college towns with bars have much higher rates of underage and high-risk drinking.
A traditional college town
Pembroke Councilman Greg Cummings said he believes Pembroke is a traditional college town and has grown sufficiently to meet the needs of students and locals.
"The university has played a major role in the Chamber of Commerce, and in the growth of the town of Pembroke," Cummings said. "The major franchises like Wal-Mart and McDonald's are here because the growth the town has experienced, thanks to the university."
Dr. Robert W. Reising, professor of Native American literature and English language, and former Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. James B. Chavis became part of the university's Town Gown Committee with Cummings. The committee was set up to improve the relationship between Pembroke and the university.
Molding the town
College towns should be molded around the type of university within them, according to Gumprecht.
"The distinctly American notion that college should be a total experience and not limited to the classroom has also shaped the evolution of U.S. campuses," he said.
However, Gumprecht said despite UNCP's enormous growth, he doesn't think the college town will be comparable to the state's flagship school.
"I don't think Pembroke is ever going to be a Chapel Hill," he said.
A new vision
Gumprecht said a college town would not only add to the college life experience, but also to UNCP students' academic growth.
"They become more connected to the school. They go to the library on Sunday night," Gumprecht said. "People are integrating their academic life with their out-of-school life and that's good from an educational standpoint."
Nicole McCorkle, Sha'Lace Gregg, Scott Ammons and Kelani Coakley contributed to this article.
UNCP needs to speak the digital language
by Brian Beck
Imagine coming back to UNCP after summer vacation. You might see students sitting outside by the water feature diligently typing away on their laptops finishing an assignment due in 15 minutes.
Laying down nearby on a blanket are a few young women, listening to their iPod with only one earbud in so that they can continue their conversation. They stop talking for a moment to wave at a guy walking by, furiously typing a text message to his professor in his phone, explaining that he is going to be a few minutes late to class.
This image of the university isn't very far off. With the large amount of new incoming students, this area will definitely need to be looked at if we want this kind of campus.
The Digital Language
Today's students use a variety of technology to keep in constant contact with each other, such as cellphones, instant messaging and various social network websites.
Dr. Charles Harrington, UNCP's provost and vice chancellor of student affairs said called this usage of technology the "Digital Language" and said it was a language UNCP will have to catch onto fast, otherwise the campus would have to sit back and watch students apply to other institutions.
Students learn by doing, by immersing themselves in the technology, and UNCP needs to capitalize on this, Harrington said.
What'll it cost?
However, the university cannot make advances without financial backing from students.
"It takes a lot of money to keep technology current," Assistant Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Ila Killian said. "It's hard to stay current."
According to University Computing and Information Services' (UCIS) five-year technology plan, the university needs money to expand the the computer services personnel and modernize the server, creating more space for students.
Where will the money come from?
The plan says UCIS must "consider a list of funding sources that include an Expansion Budget cycle, possible tuition or fee increases, attaching the whole or part of the cost to special legislation or seeking help from a University Benefactor."
Student fees will not increase drastically within the next couple of years, Killian said, but she expects students to have to pay more for technology.
"It's an ongoing battle to keep technology where it belongs," Killian said. "We have a lot of goals."
In 2005, UNCP paid nearly $3 million for computer center expenditures alone, according to Killian. That includes the 24-hour labs and BraveTech support.
Student fees for technology in 2005 stood at $135, accumulating $460,000. Ten percent went to labs in the science department and the other 90 percent helped to pay for the computer center.
"We have one of the lowest technology fees in the state, if not the lowest," Killian said.
The rest of the computer center's spending was taken from the North Carolina general fund.
The UNCP Board of Trustees approved a $26 student fee increase for technology in fall 2006.
Students also will find themselves paying for the Banner program the university is implementing to update the filing of student records. That program will cost students $80 a year. According to the five-year technology plan, fees for the Banner contract, not including maintenance, will be $231,504 in 2006.
Altogether, the university is expecting to spend more than $10 million for its funding priorities in 2006 over the next five years. These funds are not part of the current budget, the five-year plan says.
"We must find other sources for our new funding," the plan says.
iTunes U a possibility
One thing that can be done to improve technological aspects of the university while spending a small amount of money is iTunes U. Stanford University became the first college to use iTunes U, in spring 2005.
Victoria Szabo, a professor at Stanford, said very little money was spent to implement iTunes U at the university.
"The service with Apple is free," Szabo said. "We used some staff time to get the system talking to Stanford authentication system and course management system tools. Since then, it is mostly consulting."
Stanford's implementation of iTunes U
She also said that Stanford and Apple have historically had close ties with each other and both decided to work towards implementing this new idea.
"This was a good opportunity to explore common interests, and on our part, to help influence product development in a way that would influence higher ed," Szabo said.
Szabo said the implementation has gone over smoothly at Stanford. With minimal trouble, students and faculty have started to use the system, needing to only download iTunes from Apple's web site.
Instructors that have trouble using the software consult academic technology staff members stationed around the Stanford campus. Currently, 30 courses at Stanford use the iTunes U system for class media.
It takes some work
Szabo said that everyone has been taking on extra work with this system, doing it along with their regular job.
"We now have a temporary person starting to create content for the public site, but for the academic [site] we are really relying on the system being easy enough that folks don't need help," said Szabo.
Szabo said Stanford students seem to have responded positively to the system, particularly to the lecture recordings and supplements.
Stanford's improvements to the system
Stanford also is working to improve the system.
"We are looking for ways to incorporate more kinds of content into the system so we can put more class media in one place," said Szabo.
Stanford's implementation of the system can help UNCP if it attempts to use iTunes U.
Faculty and iPods
Harrington said the university already has started to move towards the usage of iPods by faculty members. The Office of Distance Education, the Teaching and Learning Center and the Provost's Office have distributed iPods to enthusiastic faculty members.
They will learn how to implement audio, video and text in their podcasts to enhance the teaching and learning environment in the classroom and supplement their lectures. The podcasts also could be used for distance education said Harrington.
"I think what we'll see over the next year is many more faculty making podcasts available to students, either through their faculty webpages or through blackboard. I'd like to see it catch on," Harrington said.
iPods in the Honors College
Dr. Jesse Peters, dean of the University Honors College, has a vision for the use of iPods among members of the Honors College.
"Eventually, I would love to see every Honors College student have access to an iPod and a laptop computer," said Peters.
Peters said that learning to produce, publish and download podcasts would be invaluable to student.
"Podcasts will change both how and where we learn from each other and affect the ways that we will interact as a society," said Peters. "Imagine reviewing a lecture or an experiment on a video iPod while eating lunch in the cafeteria."
Wireless network improvements
As part of UNCP's five-year technology plan, the university would like to broaden the wireless broadband network on campus.
Harrington described a plan that will provide a direct or wireless connection to new academic and resident buildings.
Students using laptops would be a the main reason for expanding the wireless broadband network. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with many other large universities, requires students to purchase laptops upon enrollment at the institution.
Laptops at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill's information technology department lists a reason for the requirement as "part of the university's coordinated technology plan aims to ensure that Carolina students, faculty and staff have easy access to high-quality and affordable technology and can use it effectively."
Chapel Hill currently offers a variety of computers for students to purchase through the university, ranging from less than $1,000 to more than $2,200.
Laptops at UNCP
However, Maurice Mitchell, UNC Pembroke associate vice chancellor for information resources and chief information officer does not see a requirement for laptops in the near future. He admits there has been research into the possibility of a program, but the current costs don't add up.
However, Mitchell does still encourage students to have a laptop.
"I highly recommend them, but it's not a requirement," Mitchell said.
Cell Phones on the network
Mitchell said he believes the use of cell phones is becoming as popular, if not more than, the use of iPods on campus in terms of how they can be used with the network.
Approximately 90 percent of students on campus have cell phones, making the spectrum very wide in terms of how much they can be used on the network and how many people will be able to take advantage of it.
Mitchell said people will use iPods and cell phones on the network as "tools that let people work in flexible schedules."
The wireless network
An aspect which links all of these technologies together is the wireless network on campus. Mitchell said there are plans to make the entire campus wireless, even expanding to neighboring apartment complexes.
"We want to make it wireless anywhere students might go," Mitchell said.
He also added that most students may not know the bounds of the current wireless network.
"The U.C. is wireless and I suspect most students don't know it," Mitchell said.
UCIS staff issues
As all of these aspects are tied together with a common thread, they are hindered with a common problem Ð staffing.
Mitchell said the UCIS staff may need to be quadrupled in order to give the adequate amount of support to the campus.
"We can't do wireless campus-wide without more staff," Mitchell said.
The main problem with the wireless network is its need for a person dedicated solely to it, Mitchell said. Right now, there is no one who can focus only on the maintenance and upkeep of the network.
For some faculty, using the online Blackboard system could be useful because of its convenience. Teachers are able to post grades allowing students to monitor their progress, conduct tests and quizzes online. They can also provide notes and lectures online if students miss out on information during class or are absent. Students can also post their own comments online for a one on one discussion or within a group.
It doesn't take much training for a faculty member to learn how to use the software. Faculty and staff are notified of Blackboard workshops that will be available to them. However, it is up to each individual to make the effort to learn about it and embrace it.
Dr. Andreas Broschied, an assistant professor of political science said, "I use it to provide class material lecture notes, study guides, additional readings, etc."
"I also provide discussion boards so that students can ask questions and make suggestions outside of class meetings. I include an online-discussion component in some of my classes," he said.
Faculty members evaluated teaching with technology at the 2005 UNCP faculty development day. In their feedback on online classes, common responses included talking about developing an online course and improving and expanding their classroom activities with the use of Blackboard.
Does learning stay personal?
UNCP's "Where Learning Gets Personal" motto is a significant factor in drawing students to UNCP. The increased use of iPods and online courses possibly diminishing UNCP's personal touch was not something Harrington was overly concerned about.
When it comes to advancing technology on campus and keeping UNCP's personal touch, Harrington said they are not mutually exclusive.
"You leverage technology in a way that enhances, not replaces, what goes on in the classroom," Harrington said.
Importance of Technology
For students on campus, though, technology should enhance and not hinder communication between faculty and students. There's no substitute for getting to know a student, Harrington said.
Just the same, Harrington said it's important that students leave UNCP not only with a well-grounded education, but also technological literacy.
There are many paths for the university to take that will help UNCP and all students attending to be fluent in the "Digital Language."
"Technology is going to become an increasingly important, vital part of what it means to be a contributing member of society in the 21st century," Harrington said.
Sonia Jackson, Brandon Barber, Mark Schulman, Kelly Griffith, and Mark Salazar contributed to this article.