Tag: University of Texas

Why Businesses Fail on The Drag

By Faith Ann Ruszkowski, Samantha Grasso and Ellen Gonzalez

Video by Faith Ann Ruszkowski and Samantha Grasso

Why Businesses on “The Drag” Fail: An Investigation

Story by Faith Ann Ruszkowski

When Noodles & Company closed its location on the corner of Guadalupe and 24th Streets last fall, its departure was abrupt. On Nov. 4 the restaurant was serving pasta, and by Nov. 5 its doors were locked and a note hung on the window thanking customers for their patronage.

Estephanie Gomez, a journalism senior at the University of Texas at Austin, was working for Noodles & Company when it closed. She was shocked when the restaurant went out of business.

“I literally got a text at 10 p.m. the night before that said, ‘Hey, yeah, don’t come to work tomorrow but come and pick up your severance package at 8 a.m.,” Gomez said. “I didn’t catch on—oh, Noodles is doing badly—because we were pretty busy everyday at the same times. I never knew, until the night before.”

While the swiftness of Noodles & Company’s exit might have been shocking, another business deciding to leave the strip of Guadalupe Street, known as “the Drag,” is a relatively a common occurrence.

After Noodles & Company closed in November, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which was located next door, called it quits. Pita Pit, also located on Guadalupe, closed its doors this spring. Earlier in 2015, Manju’s, Mellow Mushroom, and Jack in the Box, all located on Guadalupe, closed up shop.

Out of the 53 establishments currently on the Drag, 13 have been there for five years or less, according to data gathered from in-person interviews and business’ websites. Additionally six storefronts along the stretch of Guadalupe from 21st to 27th Streets are vacant.

Students like Ilda Arroyo have become accustomed to the high turnover of businesses on the Drag. Arroyo, who graduated from UT in December with a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences, said she noticed the constant change during her five years as a student.

“I remember as a freshman it consisted mostly of food places, but the food places have changed to businesses like the expanding Urban Outfitters, a real estate office, and a small convenience store,” Arroyo said.

So although the high turnover has become commonplace, it raises the question: why are so many businesses unable to succeed on the Drag?

Why Businesses Leave the Drag

This semester, Melissa’s Custom Gifts vacated its location on the Drag next to the long-standing Goodall Wooten dormitory and moved shop to the corner of 24th Street and Rio Grande. The store’s owner, Ken Jones, said that he made the decision to move for many reasons, one of which was that he wanted to discontinue ATX Books, which he also owned and operated from that location.

“One of the biggest things was I had been planning to end the bookstore for a very long time,” Jones said. “I didn’t need as much space, although they didn’t want me to leave because it is really hard to keep tenants on the drag period. But, it was a little bit too much space, a little bit more than what I wanted for what I was doing here, and, of course, the rent on the Drag—anywhere in this area—is very high per square foot.”

However, during his 5 years on the Drag, Ken Jones did concoct some theories about why so many businesses were failing based on personal experience and observation. For many rent is an issue like it was for him, but one of his main observations is that students do not support local businesses.

“The kids do not connect with the businesses that are there, they just don’t,” Jones said. “I ask kids and none of them know a business owner’s name. They don’t have any allegiance of any kind to anything on there. And guess what? Those businesses go out of business…They do not support the businesses that support them. Bottom line. Why doesn’t it work? It’s the students fault.”

He has also observed that business do not understand the UT campus environment.

“They come in with great intentions thinking we’ve got this concentrated amount of 39,000 [undergraduate] students we’re going to make a killing,” Jones said. “They do not do their research.”

Jennifer Hillhouse, the owner of Jenn’s copies which has two locations on the Drag and has been in business since 1982, also said that many stores open on Guadalupe without realizing how dependent their business will be on the students’ schedules. She has had 12 different neighbors since she opened her second location on the Drag near Dean Keeton.

“This is a nine-month business cycle,” Hillhouse said. “It dies in December, a horrible death, and if you have to sell at least 500 hamburgers a day to make your rent that is not going to happen in December and in June and July and halfway through August… It’s a whole town for nine month out of the year and it is a ghost town for the other three and businesses get blindsided by that.”

Matyear pointed to Terra Burger, a now closed business, as a classic example of a business that was not able to anticipate the campus cycle.

“They ran out of buns on Parents’ Day,” said Hillhouse.

What Successful Businesses on the Drag have in Common

Jenn’s Copies is one of the few businesses on Guadalupe that has achieved decades of success. The Co-Op is the longest running business on the Drag, with 99 years of service. The Wooten Barber Shop has been in business for 52 years. These are all businesses that provide services students are always in need of: prints for projects, books and haircuts.

“People have to get their haircut. It’s a destination shop,” Jones said, of his former neighbor.

Don Stafford has been working at the Wooten Barber Shop on the Drag for 23 years aggregating loyal customers all the while. He characterizes the establishment as plain, but reliable and comfortable.

“They come here because they need haircuts, but they also come here because they feel comfortable in the shop,” said Stafford. “It’s not a place where we serve wine and cheese, but come in and tell us how bad your day was or how good your day was.”

The barber shop is remarkably small, but manages to fit three stations into a space the size of the average public restroom. Jenn’s Copies also operates on a small number of square footage. Hillhouse believes modest decorations, reliable service and limited space are key to remaining in business when rent is so high and the business cycle is inconsistent throughout the year.

“When they [the shop next to Jenn’s Copies] turned into a restaurant their finish-out cost $250,000, comparison mine cost $20,000,” Hillhouse said. “I went to TOPS, which is Texas Office Products & Supplies, everything is secondhand…I only had one fancy piece of equipment and it was leased. I did not have a color copier and my husband literally painted my name on a shingle, on a piece of ply board and we hung it outside.”

Graphic by Ellen Gonzalez

“The Drag” through the Years

2100 Block Guadalupe St.

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2300 Block Guadalupe St.

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2300 Block Guadalupe St. (continued)

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2400 Block Guadalupe St.

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2400 Block Guadalupe St. (continued)

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 2500 Block Guadalupe St.

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Screenshots from maps.google.com

 

Beer Culture A-Brewin’ on Campus

Will Craven, a sophomore at the University of Texas, is a member of the Texas Brewing Society.

University of Texas sophomore Will Craven rises early on a drizzly Sunday morning to initiate the fermentation of his specialty home-brewed India pale ale. Even before achieving the two-to-four week fermentation process, the beer solution takes nearly half a day to prepare.

For folks like James Sutton, drinking a run-of-the-mill beer is simply not satisfying enough.

Sutton, president and founder of Future Brewers Club at the University of Texas at Austin, is a beer enthusiast who eschews the likes of Bud Lite and talks excitedly about lagers the names of which few have probably ever heard of, much less tasted.

“Both my parents are craft beer drinkers,” Sutton said. “I grew up with my dad drinking Saint Arnold, and that just being in the fridge all the time and not thinking anything of it.”

Saint Arnold is a craft brewery in Houston, just one of many that Sutton frequents on a regular basis. Many of the best craft breweries in the state are here in Austin, according to Sutton.

“We’re really lucky that we live in Austin and we live in 2015, because there’s a ton of craft beer everywhere,” Sutton said. “You can find good stuff anywhere. Try anything from Austin Beerworks, 512 or Real Ale.”

 

 

While brewing your own beer combines a bit of creativity and a bunch of complex chemistry, Sutton insists that the club is really just a vehicle to bring beer buffs together.

“You definitely don’t need any homebrew experience to come or to enjoy it,” Sutton said. “I, at least, try to stay away from the more technical side of beers. I just want people to come and learn some and not be overwhelmed.”

The crux of the club is simple, but Sutton himself knows the complexities of brewing and hopes to have a career in it someday.

“I’ve worked at a couple breweries in the past and it’s extremely rewarding to see a product out at a bar or a grocery store,” Sutton said. “You could see a bottle out on the floor at HEB and think, ‘Hey, I might have picked up that bottle at some point.’”

“This is what I want to do. I don’t know about the rest of my life, but after I graduate I definitely want to work in a brewery. It’s fun.”

Working at a craft brewery is not so much of an oddity anymore, either. According to the Washington Post, there are now over 4,500 of them in the United States, and sales from craft breweries constitute 14.3 percent of the $100 billion beer market.

Sutton, like many craft brewers, is a chemistry major, and attests to the importance that science plays in brewing.

“Brewing is a science,” Sutton said. “Brewing is an art. It’s a lot of complex chemistry that maybe we don’t understand. But a lot of it is understood and it’s helping everyone make better beer every day.”

But after some prodding, the process was revealed to be not so difficult.

“Really, there are only four ingredients: barley, water, yeast and hops,” Sutton said. “Boil the barley in the water, which breaks it down into simple sugars. Boil some hops in there for bitterness and aroma. Transfer it, cool it down. Add yeast, and it’s basically a chemical reaction in which simple sugars are converted into alcohol and CO2.”

 

 

Sutton’s club was started just last year, but the membership has already grown substantially.

“At orientation, they tell you all you need [to start a student organization] is three friends and 10 dollars,” Sutton said. “I was like, ‘Hey I totally have three friends.’ Twenty people showed up at the first meeting. It was hard to get it started, but rewarding.”

The members of the club have varying levels of interest in brewing their own beer, though seemingly none are as enthusiastic as Sutton.  He claims that you get out what you put into it.

“It’s kind of like any hobby,” Sutton said. “You can spend as little as you want and do as little as you want or you can spend as much as you want and do as much as you want. It’s not that hard if you want to do it. The hardest part is getting out and doing it.”

In the end, Sutton said, craft brewing is all about being the right mix.

“Brewing is 25 percent janitor, 25 percent chef, 25 percent chemist and 25 percent dude who drinks beer.”

Interested in brewing? Sutton tells us how.

 

Sutton, chemistry student and president of the University of Texas’ Future Brewers Club, shares some brewing basics and what his new student organization is all about (though that you could’ve guessed), all over a glass (or two) of his own home-brewed beer.

Rising to the 26.2 mile challenge

Sexual Assault Cases High But Remain Underreported

B-Cycle or B-Hit?

By Adam Beard, Juan Cortez, Heather Dyer, and Landon Pederson.

Red bikes with baskets are becoming a common sight along the city streets of Austin, Texas. The B-Cycle program, which launched in December of 2013, is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week bike-share program that has gone from 11 stations to 45 stations, doubled its first usage projections and set national records.

Four different stations surround the 40 Acres of the University of Texas, including two on Guadalupe Street. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Four different stations surround the 40 Acres of the University of Texas, including two on Guadalupe Street. Photo by Landon Pederson.

The main goal of the program is to bridge the transportation gap in public transit by providing a final-mile connector from the city’s mass transit system to their final destination and to reduce Austin’s traffic downtown.

However, many believe B-Cycle could be harming a different traffic problem – bicycle safety.

Cyclists interested in using B-cycle need a credit card to access the system. Once the card is swiped, cyclists can choose a bike from the rack and ride it to a station near their destination. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Cyclists interested in using B-cycle need a credit card to access the system. Once the card is swiped, cyclists can choose a bike from the rack and ride it to a station near their destination. Photo by Landon Pederson.

“I don’t really feel that safe as a bike rider myself,” said Bea Scott, a frequent bike rider in Austin. “A lot of times, a lot of people don’t really know what they’re supposed to do.”

Scott referred to both cyclers and drivers having confusion on the roads, which in turn, can cause a lot of accidents. In fact, the city of Austin has seen its bicycle accidents increase by 15 percent almost every year since 2007.

With the increase in bicycles due to the B-Cycle program, some are expecting this will only continue and perhaps get even worse.

“I’ve just heard such horror stories about people getting hit because there’s confusion as to who is turning or if the biker was going to go through a crosswalk,” Scott said. “Because of that confusion and also the fact that a lot of people don’t wear helmets, it’s really concerning.”

Although the number of bicycle accidents is increasing in Austin, the percent might be higher if all

Austin B-cycle was created to provide Austinites and locals another mode of transportation to explore downtown and the surrounding area. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Austin B-cycle was created to provide Austinites and locals another mode of transportation to explore downtown and the surrounding area. Photo by Landon Pederson.

accidents were reported. The Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying “people tend to only report a bicycle accident to the police when there is an injury or major damage. Most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.”

Despite all of the controversy, B-Cycle officials have yet to see a problem with its program.

“It hasn’t really been an issue for us,” said Elliott McFadden, the CEO of B-Cycle Austin. “Bike share systems have a stellar safety record throughout the world, and that is so far the case here.”

Austin resident Joy Messie does not see an issue either.

Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying unless an injury or major damage is involved, “most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.” Photo by Landon Pederson.

Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying unless an injury or major damage is involved, “most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.” Photo by Landon Pederson.

“I’ve moved around a lot, and this is definitely the city I’ve lived in that has the most bike lanes and most biker-friendly stuff,” Messie said. “Some of the drivers in the city I think could do a better job.”

The answer to the question of bicycle safety in Austin remains split, but there are people out there trying to improve the city’s conditions. Nathan Wilkes, an engineer with Austin’s Bicycle Program, said Austin is looking to create a plan that would make for a safer transportation system.

He also added that 39 percent of residents fall into the category of “interested but concerned” to ride a bicycle on the streets. Wilkes said he believes there are ways to make cycling a more appealing option.

                                                                                   One includes what was recently implemented on Guadalupe Street – a cycle track that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic.

Nevertheless, there are still concerns for increasing bicycle accidents with the new B-Cycle program, especially because the program enables people to ride bikes that don’t normally use them on the city’s roads.

 

 

A Budding Artist

By: Claire Edwards, Madison Hamilton, Helen Fernandez, Melinda Billingsley and Jonny Cramer

Michelangelo used a 50-foot ladder to reach the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Picasso required a vast color palette to coat his geometric shapes. Banksy operates through complete secrecy. Shannon Donaldson needs a little water and a well-lit room to keep her art alive.

Shannon Donaldson, founder of Flowers on the Fly, prepares succulents on her ice cream bike. Photo by Helen Fernandez

Shannon Donaldson, founder of Flowers on the Fly, prepares succulents on her ice cream bike. Photo by Helen Fernandez

After graduating in 2006 with a degree in sculpting from Stephen F. Austin University, Donaldson didn’t know in what direction to take her artistic abilities.

“I never knew where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do,” she says. “Finally I found this little niche of succulent plants.”

Donaldson says she sees each succulent as a sculpture in itself. She creates arrangements by focusing on different textures and colors. Photo by Helen Fernandez.

Donaldson says she sees each succulent as a sculpture in itself. She creates arrangements by focusing on different textures and colors. Photo by Helen Fernandez.

In 2012 she founded Flowers on the Fly with an ice cream bike and a few dozen succulent plants. Her business flourished – no pun intended – when she started pairing the cactus-like plants with funky vases, pots and sculptures that she purchased from local shops.

After securing her three spots: South Congress, The Drag, and downtown Austin – Donaldson became the go-to succulent vendor around town.

University of Texas at Austin student, Leigh Brown has started working with Donaldson to personalize her purchases.

“I buy succulents from here every three or four months,” says Brown. “I design a setup with her and she’ll go and get the plants for me.”

Not only do UT Austin students enjoy sprucing up their dorm with stylish succulents, the local art community has praised Donaldson for her innovation. RAW, “the natural born” art show hosted at The Belmont in downtown Austin, invited Donaldson to showcase her work. Her setup ranged from succulents sprouting out of glimmering black skulls with lit up eyes to blue dinosaurs with plants growing out of their back. The creativity and attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed – her cart was placed on the first floor, directly across from the main stage, where RAW attendees crowded around in admiration.

“My favorite thing is the succulent gasp – it’s the moment when people see my cart and they’re like ‘Ah that is so cute!’”

Donaldson had to create a job to use her art degree, she says she wasn't able to go out and find one. Photo by Helen Fernandez.

Donaldson had to create a job to use her art degree. She says she wasn’t able to go out and find one. Photo by Helen Fernandez.

Even though her succulents have been in high demand among the art community and UT students alike, Donaldson doesn’t have any desire to raise prices. Ranging from $4 to $25, her succulents are cheaper than most art – and plants in the area. An appreciation for high-quality, reasonably priced art was a key component when creating Flowers on the Fly.

Starting a business was a big risk for Donaldson but it paid off – proving to her family and self that unconventional paths can be successful.

A Budding Artist from Claire Edwards on Vimeo.

More Than Just a Pretty Face

3-D Technology Finally Free For UT Students

By: Jamie Balli, Silvana Di Ravenna, Briana Franklin, and Breanna Luna

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UT’s first 3D printing vending machine is the hot topic of technology accessible for students.
Photo Credit: Breanna Luna

AUSTIN – With all the talk about 3-D printing, a few questions still remain. What is in it for the consumer? How does 3-D printing work? Is it costly?

Since early September, 3-D printing has been available at no cost for all students at the University of Texas at Austin. The printer is located in the “T-Room” inside the Mechanical Engineering Building on campus.

Third-year aerospace engineer Kenzie Snell heard about the 3-D printer in the Longhorn Rocketry Association where students had to use it for their rockets. Students in other engineering courses are also using the printer for class projects.

“For my engineering design graphics course I had to recreate a water valve pipe that we took the dimensions of, created 3-D images of them, and then printed them for a final project,” Snell said.

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This rabbit was designed and printed using free 3-D technology
Photo Credit: Silvana Di Ravenna

A software development group at the university’s school of engineering created an online portal for students to upload their own designs to the 3-D printer. And here is how the process of 3-D printing works. Each design is reviewed by an engineering student for approval. Students are notified via text message once their design has been approved and is in the process of printing. A second and final text message is sent when the design is finished printing and can be picked up.

“No one has to walk up to the machine and load files which is what typically happens with 3-D printers, and involves students kind of hanging around until it becomes available’’ said Dr. Carolyn Seepersad, associate professor of mechanical engineering at U.T.’s Cockrell School of Engineering.

According to Seepersad, students are customizing parts for themselves, including cuff links, initialed designs, and longhorns for the graduating class. Lately, Seepersad has noticed a significant amount of Pokemon figurines being printed.

“If they can draw it up on their computer, then they can print it out and have it pretty quickly, which is easier than going to the machine shop and trying to make it out of wood, steel, or metal,” said Seepersad.

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Students can pick up their creations at the Innovation Station once they are completed
Photo Credit: Silvana Di Ravenna

3-D printing is also being used to make complex shapes in low volume that are not made with other manufacturing techniques used for high volume. According to Seepersad, 3-D printing “is not going to replace other forms of manufacturing,” but it’s going to “supplement manufacturing in very viable ways.”

“Essentially, what you would make in five pieces and glue them together in an assembly shop, a 3-D printer can do it in a single step,” said Dr. Vikram Devarajan, University of Texas alumnus and 3-D printing expert.

According to Devarajan, 3-D printing was invented about 20 to 25 years ago, and because all of the original patents have already expired, the cost of printing has since decreased. This has made 3-D printing much more affordable for the consumer.

The 3-D printer available for the students uses materials that are relatively inexpensive. The mechanical engineering department has offered to help pay for materials, but donations are also being accepted.

“We can print parts almost continuously and only have a couple thousand dollars of material costs at the end of the year,” said Seepersad. “The labor of keeping the machine updated and maintained is probably the biggest expense.”

According to Devarajan, U.T. owns several printers that employ two main types of additive manufacturing processes.The 3-D printer available for all students is based on a process called FDM [Fused Deposition Modeling] and is more reasonable in material costs. The other process, SLS [Selective Laser Sintering], is more expensive but can print more complex designs and is widely used in the medical and the aerospace industry.

“We couldn’t afford to open up [the SLS] process to students because of the material costs,” said Seepersad. “The parts printed from the 3-D printer downstairs rarely print anything that has more than a dollar’s worth of material.”

3-D printers range in price depending on the complexity of the printer itself. Printers using the SLS modeling process can print complex designs such as organs and complex flow field geometries. At U.T., a human heart modeled from a CT scan was printed, according to Devarajan.

“You can go buy an FDM 3-D printer for $1,000,” said Devarajan. “The SLS printers I have operated at U.T. are about half a million dollars each.”


3D Printing from Briana Franklin on Vimeo.

Behind the Scenes: How The College of Communication Became Moody

By: Caroline Manning, Rachel Marino, Monica Zhang and Rachel Perlmutter

The crowd sings The Eyes of Texas to close the Nov. 7 naming ceremony.
Photo Credit: Monica Zhang

Students, faculty, alumni and other spectators crowded outside the College of Communication Nov. 7, honoring the Moody Foundation for their $50 million donation to the school. The gift will make the now Moody College of Communication the largest endowed communications school in the county.

The Moody Foundation, began by W.L. Moody Jr. in 1942, was created to benefit the success of present and future generations of Texans. Known for their philanthropic work, including funding public higher education around the state, the foundation originally granted UT’s RTF program $2.1 million dollars for curriculum in 3D film production earlier in the year. Dean of the College Communications Roderick Hart decided to build on this initial investment.

“They have historically supported programs that deal with brain injuries, such as hearing and speech communication, so we developed a relationship with them, which ultimately led to the $50 million gift,” said Hart. “We put together a 50 page single space proposal that laid out all of the details of what the money would be for and how would we use it.”

“Extraordinary work is taking place at this college, it was an easy decision to invest in the college and it’s academic programs,” Ross Moody, Moody Foundation trustee and UT graduate, told the attendees of the celebration.

According to Dean Hart, one thing that attracted The Moody Foundation was that most of the money gifted would be used as endowments. 95 percent of the $50 million will be put in the bank as principal. They will later use the interest generated from the principal, making the donation a long-term investment.

“By giving us endowed monies, The Moody’s don’t just believe in us for 2013,” Hart said, “they believe in us for the long haul.”

Video by: Rachel Marino

According to Mike Wilson, Assistant Dean for External Relations in the College of Communication, the gift by in large will be centered around an innovation fund. He believes one of the key issues surrounding the college is the rapid pace of technological change.

“We need to be ahead of the curve and be able to teach things that are relevant to a changing market place in both the industries we serve and the way in which consumers want to receive information,” Wilson said.

The innovation fund is designed to create curriculum, lectures, and programs that are able to keep students prepared for the jobs of the future.

Why Are YOU Moody?

 

“The Moody Foundation believes it’s commitment to this college will inspire students to achieve extraordinary heights in their own careers and to reflect well upon this university,” Ross Moody said. “It is vital for the university to prepare students for the shifting media landscape revolutionary technology and new forms of communication.”

Money from the endowment will also go to the nine centers within the college. According to Dean Wilson, each center will be given a $1 million endowment.
moodyinvestment

One of the centers receiving an endowment is the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. The Strauss Institute conducts research on civil engagement and runs outreach programs to middle and high school students.

“Most of our income comes from donations and grants because state is limited and hard to get,” said Regina Lawrence, Director of The Strauss Institute. “The money we will get from the endowment is valuable. We can count on on it year to year and it will help fund our array of educational programming along with the research we do.”

Another center receiving part of the endowment is the Knight Center, an outreach program that helps journalists in Latin America and creates online courses benefiting journalists all over the world.

“Although there is no immediate cash flow, the endowment will grow and we will be able to spend half of that revenue every year,” said Knight Center Director and UT professor Rosental Alves. “It will help our center to become permanent and allow us to receive more donations.”

moodyinfo2

Though most of the money is going towards student and faculty, $10 million dollars of the Moody donation will be allocated to build a sky bridge that will stretch over Dean Keeton Street and connect the Belo Media Center to the CMA building. According to Dean Hart, there is a big safety concern with students crossing Dean Keeton Street. Hart also felt that the two buildings being split across the street made the college as a whole seem split.

“Along with being aesthetically pleasing, the bridge will connect the buildings not only physically, but psychologically as well,” Dean Hart said.

According to many faculty and staff, the best part of the $50 million endowment is the name that comes along with it.

“Being the Moody College of Communications is branding our college with a great name,” Dean Wilson said. “It will join other great Texas names on this campus like McCombs, Jackson, and LBJ.”

Wilson explained that having a well-known name linked with the college gives the school enormous benefits, making it recognized nationally and internationally and attracting new talent and more people to the school.

“We are delighted to give this gift and we are in awe to have the Moody name on this campus,” said Ross Moody. “May the Moody College of Communications teaching and programs continue to inspire a desire for excellence and be a positive influence in all that enter our doors.