Gaertner discusses new housing

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Sam Houston State University President James Gaertner met with the student body Wednesday night to inform them of future campus changes, to answer questions, give advice and to hear students’ input. Gaertner generated the event, which was the first of the “60 Minutes with the Prez” lectures this year, in order to better know SHSU students and their needs.Gaertner reminded students that academics come first and informed them of several buildings projects that the university will undergo during the next few years. The total cost of campus construction for the next two years will average nearly $70 million dollars. “This is very substantial, and we need it,” Gaertner said. “The progress I have seen since I was a student at Sam Houston State is remarkable. We have to keep making progress.”Gaertner believes the time for construction is now because interest rates are at an all-time low. “I am confident that the people who follow us in years to come will say we did a good thing for the university,” he said.One of the largest building projects Gaertner discussed was the construction of the Bearkat Village apartment complex, which will be located across from Bowers Stadium. “We surveyed students, and they want private rooms, a little bit of living space and kitchen facilities,” Gaertner said. “I hope that the Bearkat Village apartments will ease housing problems we have had on campus.” Bearkat Village is expected to be completed for the next academic year.Gaertner also discussed a structured parking garage located immediately north of the Lee Drain building in the works for Sam Houston students. He hopes to help commuter students and those who park on the south side of campus by building dining facilities in the space where the temporary Barnes & Noble bookstore was located. The Smith-Hutson Business Building, the Teacher Education Center, and the Farrington building will receive money for renovations and additions as well.One project Gaertner was particularly enthusiastic about was the construction of a visitor’s center southwest of the Estill building. “We will place people there from financial aid, the registrar’s office, housing and various other areas,” Gaertner said. “Students will be able to do a one-stop shop there and take care of all of their business in one area.” Another item on the list was the creation of a Bearkat Bucks card that will allow students to pay for things not only on campus, but certain off campus places with a discount. The card could potentially be used as a dormitory access card as well.Gaertner will continue the president’s speaker series this semester, a program he established last spring to bring distinguished people who will share their success and advice with students. The first of the speakers will be Mrs. Fields, of Mrs. Fields cookies, who will give a lecture at 11 a.m. on Oct. 1 in the Killinger Auditorium of the criminal justice center. “She has a wonderful story,” Gaertner said. “She was a young woman who was not taken seriously by bankers when she began her business. It is a story of success.”The second speaker in the series will be the prime minister of Thailand, who was listed in Forbes magazine as one of the world’s biggest billionaires. He will receive the SHSU humanitarian award in the Killinger Auditorium at 2 p.m. on Oct. 23.Gaertner encouraged students to be involved at SHSU. “You get out of your educational experience what you put into it,” Gaertner said. “If you get involved, you can have one of the best times of your life here at Sam Houston State. There are many wonderful activities. I urge you to be involved on campus.”The president asked SHSU students to help underprivileged young people to strive toward higher education. “The state of Texas is moving toward a crisis,” Gaertner said. “There will be complex work needs in the future and we are working on attracting and graduating more students.” Students were urged to tell their friends who are not in college or who are graduating high school about SHSU or other higher education opportunities. “We owe it to people to help them out,” Gaertner said. “We should move them ahead and encourage them to go to college. We can do more than we think.”Many students asked the president questions ranging from financial aid issues to transportation to student activities. Gaertner reminded students of the regulations and red tape the university must abide by concerning financial aid, but allowed those having problems to come to him personally after the lecture and give him their contact information.One student asked a question concerning the new infrastructure and roads projects being completed in Huntsville, and asked the president if Huntsville was trying to become more college friendly. Gaertner told students that city manager Bob Hart is in touch with the university and is familiar with what the city need to do to be friendly to students. “We have had University Community Council meetings for the last year to better understand the needs of the university as it applies to the community,” Gaertner said. “One thing we talked about was how to make the community a student-friendly area, with more jobs available and private industries. There is something in the works.”Career fairs were also discussed between the president and the students, and Gaertner reminded students that the Career Expo on Wednesday was the first of many this semester.Many students who attended “60 Minutes with Prez” said they were pleased with Gaertner’s efforts. “He had a lot of good things to say,” said sophomore Amy Anderson. “He gave a lot of information, especially about construction and parking.””(60 Minutes with the Prez) was good,” said freshman Sarah Lyons. “It’s good to get to know him.”The next “60 Minutes with the Prez” will be held at noon on Oct. 29 in the Lowman Student Center auditorium, complete with pizza and drinks. Gaertner told students he also plans to make several efforts this semester to get out on campus to meet students.