Friday, September 20, 2013

The Oncoming Swarm

By Blake Eaton

Anyone who exercises regularly at a university gym knows the phenomenon: At the beginning of the year, a swarm of enterprising young fitness buffs flock to the fitness center only to drop like flies in a matter of weeks. So it wasn’t unexpected when I found myself having to strategically choose the times I spent at the gym these past couple of weeks. Thankfully, I seem to have found my niche; it turns out that college students don’t typically wake up at 7 in the morning.

I may have avoided the crowds, but the odd thing is that those crowds haven’t disappeared. Perhaps kids these days finally understand the value of good exercise. Maybe we’ve reached some sort of generational turning point. It’s only a few years until we reach an uber-fit utopia!

Or not.

I think this surge of gym rats at UT Dallas is really the result of something I’ve discussed before on this blog. We are witnessing a school on the rise. Over the past five years, the university’s student body has grown by more than 5,000 students—a whopping 34%! On top of that, the number of top-tier students has skyrocketed, with 88 National Merit Finalists beginning to study at UT Dallas this year alone. When you put it perspective, it makes sense that the gym feels a bit crowded.

In some ways, this growth is inconvenient. Not only is the gym crowded, but busy faculty advisors are swamped with students, and the university has been scrambling in some instances to find room for the amount of classes it needs to host. Overall, these facts could give the impression that the school has bitten off more than it can chew.

I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment. It would be easy for UT Dallas to kick up its feet and let the status quo maintain itself. As it stands, the university is a pretty great place to be. The hard-working professors, advisors, and employees of UT Dallas want more, though. They want this school to truly grow as a community and as an institute of higher learning.

Take, for instance, the Supplemental Instruction program. Started just one year ago, the program has already grown to provide study sessions and services to over a dozen historically difficult classes. I may be biased (I’m a Supplemental Instruction Leader myself), but I see SI as an emblem of what UT Dallas stands for. It stands for looking forward, for seeing what the future can be instead of what the present is. 

When I see the flock of new students on campus, when I see the oncoming swarm, I smile because I know that it means we’re doing something right.

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