It’s the first day back after Fall Break and you are headed to your class at the Durham Science Center. On your way, you pass by the Weitz Community Engagement Center and underneath the Henningson Memorial Campanile, thinking about how you will need to catch the shuttle to Mammel Hall on Pacific Campus for your last class of the day before you return to your room at Scott Court.
While this may seem like a typical day in the life of the average UNO student in 2015, things were quite a bit different 30 years ago.
October 21, 2015 marks “Back to the Future Day” – a reference to the classic 80’s movie series, in which the main characters time travel to this exact day, arriving to a much different world than the one they came from.
While the real 2015 may not have hover boards, flying cars, and self-drying jackets (yet) there have been a massive amount of changes on the UNO campus over the last 30 years.
B.J. Reed, UNO’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, has been at UNO since 1982 and remembers where he was at on Oct. 21, 1985.
“I had just become chair of Public Administration after only being here three years,” Reed explains. “The department was located in this old house on the west side of campus that was known for bugs and a flooding basement. I think we had our first personal computer by then, but the secretary was the only one who had one.”
Reed served as chair of Public Administration from 1985 to 2000, when he was promoted to Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS). In 2006 he was named Executive Assistant to the Chancellor in addition to his role as Dean and, in 2011, became Senior Vice Chancellor.
While CPACS, which is made up of the School of Public Administration, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Department of Gerontology, Aviation Institute, Division of Continuing Studies, and Goodrich Scholarship Program, is all located in the same building today, most of their history was spent spread out across homes annexed by UNO in the 1970s.
UNO Circa 1985
UNO Circa 2015
UNO Archivist and alumnus Les Valentine has been on campus since 1972, first as a student and then as an employee. He explains that there was really no way to know which homes would stay and which would be torn down to make room for new buildings.
“It was all dirt and construction,” he says. “Unlike Doc and Marty, we needed roads; we just didn’t have them like we do today. It was the beginnings of what Chancellor Del Weber had worked so hard for up until that point, to utilize the campus’ full potential in that space.”
Valentine adds that he will regularly run into alumni from UNO who were students back in the 1980s, or even further back, who get lost on campus because of how much everything has changed.
“If you hopped in your DeLorean anywhere west of where the library is now and traveled to 2015 in that same location you would have no idea where you were.”
While there was very little west of the library in 1985, there was even less south of Dodge Campus. At the time, the Ak-Sar-Ben race track and coliseum were still operational. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that what is known as Pacific Campus started to take shape. According to Reed, the difference between the UNO of 1985 and 2015 is “stunning.”
“There was so much that didn’t exist then,” he says. “You really had the Eppley Administration Building, Roskens Hall, Allwine Hall, HPER, the Fieldhouse, Caniglia Field, Arts and Sciences Hall, Kaiser Hall and the Library. That’s it.”
What may be most surprising to today’s students is that even as recently as 1985 UNO did not have any stand-alone doctoral programs. The first Ph.D. offered by UNO was in Criminal Justice (1993) followed by Public Administration in 1994. Today, UNO is home to seven doctoral degree programs and is classifed by the Carnegie Foundation as a Doctoral/Research University.
“It was a far, far different place,” Reed says.
Just like in the film, there is a lot that could be different for UNO today if the right things hadn’t happened when they did. When looking to the future, and the next 30 years, Valentine says he doesn’t expect the Dodge Campus to change much physically, but the Pacific and Center Campus locations will continue to expand.
“There will be more housing, no question; and the development of Center Campus into a home for UNO Athletics will be well established by that point.”
Meanwhile, Reed says that the changes over the next three decades will be as dramatic, if not more so, over the previous three.
“We will have three fully developed campus locations by the time we reach 2045,” he explains. “We will have more than 20,000 students with housing and at least 20 percent of them. We will also have satellite campuses throughout the metro area and increase our doctoral programs from less than 10 to more than 20. There is no doubt in my mind that we will rival the best institutions in the Midwest.”
While we may not be able to predict the future – or travel to it in a car – there is no mistaking that UNO has gone through a lot of changes in the last 30 years with only more great things to come.