Things have changed quite a bit since Patrick Duff attended The University of Akron (UA) in the 1980s. “The school has really transitioned from a commuter school to a full-blown university,” says The University of Akron Bookstore manager. “All the new facilities and programs offered now have really changed the dynamics of the school. It’s been wonderful to see.”
In recent years, colleges and universities across the nation have come to realize that academic prominence alone is not enough to attract top students and athletes. As part of an overall blueprint for learning, The University of Akron has reinvented its campus through the creation of park-like open spaces, improved campus access and new buildings.
Led by University President, Dr. Luis M. Proenza, the institution recently completed the first phase of its $300 million New Landscape for Learning campus enhancement program. The five-year project included nine new buildings, 14 major renovations and the addition of 30 acres of green space to the 218-acre campus. The new facilities include two classroom buildings, an Honors Complex, Student Union, Athletic Field House, and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center – recently named one of the top 25 student recreation centers in the nation by Best College Review.
The expansive 295,000 square foot structure is a world-class facility boasting a 56-foot rock climbing wall, pool, spa, running track, five gyms, two group exercise studios and 250 cardiovascular and strength-training machines. “The rec center is amazing,” boasts Duff. “The school has done an incredible job of revitalizing the University. It’s just a fantastic place to go to school – and to work.”
Connected to the Center by a walkway through picturesque Coleman Commons, the bookstore, which has been managed by Barnes & Noble College since 1983, has seen an increase in the demand for UA emblematic apparel since the center’s construction. While the store sells shorts, sweats, workout tops and socks, athletic wear is not the only thing students are snapping up. “I’ve seen an amazing increase in school spirit over the years,” says Duff. “Kids are proud to be a part of UA. We saw record-breaking crowds at our basketball games this year, and our team made it into the NCAA tournament for the first time. That was exciting – everyone wanted a Zips shirt.”
Duff speaks from the heart when he praises the University. He has a strong connection to the school beyond managing the bookstore. Not only did he graduate from the institution, but his wife Barbara and eldest daughter did as well. “My middle child in currently enrolled here, and my youngest will be a freshman next fall,” Duff says with pride. “With such great opportunities, we naturally wanted our children to go here, too.”
Changes are apparent not only in the new buildings cropping up across campus, but also in students’ involvement in athletics, student government, and a top-rated student residence hall program.
“The University has come a long way since I was a student,” explains Duff. “Back in the day, you would see students wearing Ohio State shirts walking across campus. Today, you see students proudly wearing their University of Akron and Zips gear everywhere you look. As an alumnus and father of three UA students, it fills me with great pride. I’m very fortunate to be a part of this great school.”