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Community Engagement Center new intrical part of UNO's mission


Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Updated: Sunday, December 8, 2013 15:12

As I begin my daily trek to class, I am always enthralled by the construction on campus. The young child in me who was obsessed with Tinker-toys and Legos cannot help but keep his eyes focused on the new buildings even if it means bumping into other pedestrians and/or absentmindedly walking in front of traffic.

Though the child in me is happy with being able to watch a structure being created, my more adult-self was initially not pleased with the edition of the Community Engagement Center. When construction first began last year my first though was “What the hell are they doing with my parking spots!?”

As I have conversed with fellow students this semester, many share similar feelings about losing additional stalls from an already seemingly barren parking wasteland. Though I initially held this view, and still am never a fan of losing parking spaces, I have come to see the Community Engagement Center as an integral piece of UNO’s mission.

UNO has struggled with its identity for a number of years. Many Omaha high school students view UNO as a second tier school in favor of its “older sibling” UNL. What they fail to understand is not only is UNO as good a university (if not better), but also that it plays an integral role in the community.

UNO’s identity is strongly rooted in the city itself. We are situated nearly directly in the center of the city, a perfect balance of north and south, east and west. Through student teaching, internships, service projects, and community outreach there is not a single part of the city UNO does not influence.

There is no institution in our city that plays a more critical or more influential role in the bettering of Omaha. Improvements to UNO and improvements to our city simply go hand in hand. With the edition of the Peter Kiewit Institute to campus in 1996, Omaha businesses acquired a stream of science and technology-savvy graduates and UNO received a top-tier program that attracts students from around the nation and world.

In a similar way that PKI works closely with engineering and technology companies, the Community Engagement Center will allow from closer relationships with nonprofits and business in other fields. Contact with employers, non-profits, and other organizations provide an invaluable resource for finding jobs after graduation and surely will benefit students.

We provide Omaha’s teachers, engineers, programmers, business leaders, lawyers, doctors, actors, social workers and just about every other profession. Every top-notch graduate from UNO has the ability to improve their profession and the city as a whole. UNO and Omaha’s futures are inherently intertwined so a building to promote both will do nothing but good for them.

It is time for UNO to embrace its city-oriented identity, even if it means a little more aimless driving looking for parking spots.

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