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N.C. State takes lead in growth

RALEIGH — In at least one regard, N.C. State University has set an example for the UNC system.

It is the only university that has approved and built a satellite campus. While Centennial Campus is still in its early building stages — it’s a 100-year plan — it has changed the face of the school.

“There was a lot of opposition in the beginning … but many legislators saw the benefits of Centennial Campus,” said Odessa Montgomery, communications officer for the campus.

“We see ourselves as being a leader and continuing the trend. It will only be a direct benefit to North Carolina.”

The satellite campus is celebrating 20 years of history, since plans were started in 1984 when then-Gov. Jim Hunt transferred 355 acres to the university to house the College of Textiles.

From there, the satellite slowly took shape as a place for cooperation among several entities.

“It’s a model of collaboration between education, government and corporation,” Montgomery said. “We’ve been influential not only within North Carolina or the region but across the country and internationally.”

Centennial Campus has 55 corporate and government partners, including Bayer Corp. and Iams Pet Imaging Center, and hosts 73 academic programs.

The local branches of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Weather Service also operate out of the satellite campus.

While research facilities typically are used by graduate students, others also benefit, Montgomery said.

“We have 310 students employed with Centennial Campus corporate partners,” she said. “They’re able to get real-world experience.”

Following in N.C. State’s footsteps, UNC-Greensboro and N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University have started developing a joint Millennial Campus, as has Western Carolina University.

But UNC-Chapel Hill has hit a road block in the development of Carolina North, its almost 1,000-acre satellite campus down Airport Road.

So N.C. State, founded in 1887, is the only one of 16 campuses to have successfully opened a new chapter.

The research-extensive, land-grant institution spends about $444 million annually on research. It seems to pay off, since the school holds more than 350 patents and ranks 7th among national research universities in industry-funded research.

Touring the campus

N.C. State is the largest university in Raleigh, with almost 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The main campus — built almost entirely of red bricks — consists of about 2,110 acres off of Hillsborough Street. The school also maintains more than 101,000 acres in research and extension facilities across North Carolina.

The red often overshadows the businesses across Hillsborough Street — the Raleigh equivalent of Franklin Street.

But this, the most accessible part of the city, is quickly losing ground as the variety of business wanes.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said there’s a plan to add roundabouts to slow traffic and to widen sidewalks to make the street more student-friendly.

But most students now are patronizing the restaurants and night life of Glenwood South, an area closer to downtown that began developing 10 years ago.

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“There’s a shift now away from Hillsborough Street,” said Tony Caravano, N.C. State student body president. “We would love for it to be more alive than it is now, but Glenwood South has become the booming area.”

University transportation has partnered with Capital Area Transportation and Triangle Transit Authority to provide students and faculty with a U-Pass —allowing them free fare when they flash their university identification.

This setup is helpful, considering the most recent collaboration between the city and N.C. State. The university’s design school is planning a studio downtown where 25 students will work full-time.

Making the most of it

Ninety percent of N.C. State’s students are resident undergraduates, Caravano said, and plenty of them come to the state’s capitol as first-generation college students.

Mostly, they major in engineering and agriculture, taking advantage of main campus’ student centers, movie theater and eateries.

“Most of the activity you see is at the intramural sports fields,” Caravano said.

But all facets of the university are feeling the impact of several years of cuts to its $820 million budget, Caravano said.

“Students are sitting on the floor and window sill,” he said. “It has taken away from the availability. But … we use our resources a bit more effectively. We’re definitely not wasting anything, but we could use a little more.”

As the university tries to balance plans for growth with increasing budget cuts, students try to get the most out of their time at N.C. State.

“The student population is really outgoing and down to earth,” Caravano said. “Most people find this a comfortable place to be.”


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