JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 23, 2009 – Union University has been blessed by God and has many things for which to be thankful this holiday season, Union President David S. Dockery told members of the Jackson Rotary Club Nov. 23.
Dockery, speaking at the club’s monthly lunch meeting, gave an update about the recent happenings at Union, and offered some insights into the university’s future plans.
“I just want to say a word of affirmation and appreciation for the many good things that you’re doing in this community in making it a better place for so many,” Dockery told Rotary Club members. “We’re privileged at Union University to be a part of this wonderful community with you.”
The Union president recapped the recent Campus and Community day at Union, in which nearly 1,000 students, faculty and staff members spent an entire day volunteering on service projects around the Jackson community.
Those community service efforts have earned Union recognition for three straight years on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll – one of only 160 institutions nationally to make that list for three years in a row, Dockery noted.
“That affirms what we’re trying to do at Union, not to be an island over there located unto ourselves, but to be a vital part of this community and involved and invested in as many ways as we have opportunity and time to do so,” Dockery said.
While many private academic institutions across the country have struggled in recent years, the Union president told Rotary Club members that the university’s enrollment has increased for 12 straight years, to a record 4,050 students during the fall 2009 semester. Those students come from 45 states and 30 countries, which is a profound difference from Union’s makeup in 1975, when it moved from downtown Jackson to its north Jackson campus. At that time, 92 percent of Union’s 800 students came from the counties between the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers.
“When the campus moved to its current location, the board leadership had the vision to purchase as much land as possible,” Dockery said. “Many people in this town at that time thought they were quite unwise, because there was not much out in north Jackson. Now it seems to be one of the most visionary moves imaginable.”
Dockery classified Union up until 1975 as a local institution, and over the next 20 years it became an “emerging regional institution.” Since 1995, Union has been an “emerging national institution,” Dockery said, with national rankings such as those from U.S.News & World Report affirming that classification. For 13 straight years, that publication has ranked Union as one of the top tier institutions in the South.
In addition, for the past two years, U.S.News labeled Union as one of the 77 up-and-coming institutions in the nation, and in the 2009 rankings ranked Union second in the South for the effectiveness of its undergraduate teaching.
Dockery also discussed the development of the physical campus, providing updates about the new pharmacy building, which will open next summer, and the Bowld Student Commons Building, which will open in February. Even with more than 1,200 student apartments on campus, Dockery said Union is “completely out of space” for residential students, and construction has begun on a new student housing quad that will be ready for the fall 2010 semester.
When asked about the next decade at Union, Dockery suggested that future buildings on the campus might include an academic resource facility that will house the library, more student housing and an additional academic classroom building. Dockery concluded by noting that the economic impact of Union University for Madison County approximates $175 million on an annual basis.