Graduating Students Have Seen Many Changes
By Richard Veilleux
They were here when a new serpentine, perfectly manicured Fairfield Way replaced the jumble of parking spaces that used to characterize the center of campus. They awoke daily to the sounds of construction, studied in a dozen new or refurbished buildings, and lived in airy, larger, residence halls. Many - browsing the shelves for books or studying at computer terminals in the electronic café' - were not aware that Homer Babbidge Library had previously been hidden from view for years.
They are the Class of 2002, a cohort of 3,554 undergraduates and 1,604 graduate or professional school students who will receive diplomas, commissions and handshakes, starting the evening of May 17 when Army and Air Force ROTC cadets become officers. On May 18, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., undergraduate students will become UConn alumni. They will be followed on Sunday, May 19, by students in the School of Law (10:30 a.m.) and the Graduate School (3 p.m.). Newly minted doctors and dentists will receive their diplomas at the UConn Health Center on Monday, May 20 at 3 p.m.
"It's a much nicer campus today" than four years ago, says Germain Matti, a human development and family relations major from Tenafly, N.J. "I loved the campus when I took my first tour, and it's even better now. I had a wonderful four years here."
Some of the changes, says Ha Ly, a New London resident who will continue her studies as she works to join her mother in the nursing profession, will better prepare current and future students for their careers.
"The changes in Northwest [residence halls] will be a real advantage to young students," said Ly, who lived in Northwest before it became a freshman complex, complete with on-site advisors, mentors, and offices for staff of the First Year Experience program. "The way it's structured should be a real boon for kids. They're all the same age, they're all going through the same thing, the same conflicts. It should really help them adjust to campus."
Ly also applauded the new on-line student registration system and, although she wasn't able to take part in it, the on-line housing registration system.
"When all the students received an ethernet connection ... that was great, too. I go home now, turn on the computer, and wait so long, I'm saying 'Man, I wish I was at UConn'."
On May 18-19, more than 25,000 people will be at UConn, to celebrate the success of UConn's graduates. Many of those people will park in another building that didn't exist when the Class of '02 first strode onto campus - the South Parking garage. And graduands, too, will follow a different route into the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion than their predecessors, massing on the grass of Memorial Stadium rather than the Student Union Mall, which will be closed for the next few years, as contractors renovate and expand the Student Union, the Gentry Building, and the former School of Business, three projects that should further improve the UConn experience for future classes of UConn students.
Medical and dental students in the Health Center's Class of 2002 were among the beneficiaries of the new Academic Research Building, completed in 1998. The $37.9 million, 10-story structure signaled an important commitment to research on the part of the state, and served as a powerful recruiting inducement to new, world-class faculty with established research programs and funded grants. Students met these faculty in both classroom and laboratory.
Medical students saw the continued refinement of their curriculum and a growing emphasis on basic science and research in molecular biology, genetics, vascular biology, cancer, and musculoskeletal disease.
Dental students could take special pride in their school in 2001 when it was named the country's top dental school, based on students' national test scores. Dental school test scores during the past decades have been consistently high, placing the UConn school among the top five nationally, but 2001 was the first time it was the top school.
Since arriving on campus in 1999 - or 1998 for those students enrolled in the four-year evening division - members of the Law School's Class of 2002 also have seen numerous changes. In 2000, the students helped welcome incoming Dean Nell Jessup Newton to the School.
During their time at the School, the academic offerings have increased, with the addition of a certificate program in intellectual property and an LL.M. program in insurance law. And, as this year's graduates prepare to leave campus, they are witnesses to the first phase of the renovation of Starr Hall.