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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Campus

Biotechnology program relocates to Sugar Land campus


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Chris Sanderson, the Student Government Association’s College of Technology senator, said the program’s exodus to the Sugar Land campus sets a precedent for other colleges and their programs. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

Several technology students will switch gears next semester — and some are not happy about it.

This spring, the biotechnology program within the College of Technology will transfer to UH’s satellite campus in Sugar Land. This is the third program to migrate to the Sugar Land campus after the digital media program relocated there in 2014, followed by the industrial branch of the construction management program.

The mechanical engineering technology program is the last program scheduled to move after the construction of a new, 150,000 square feet building is complete.

While faculty saw the move coming, many technology students feel unprepared and have mixed reactions.

Students voice their opinion

Chris Sanderson, the Student Government Association’s College of Technology senator, doesn’t feel that students were properly informed about this move and believes they should’ve been told sooner.

“It’s a pretty big deal that the college is shifting away and nobody really knows what’s going on,” Sanderson said.

Commuter students are concerned about having to extend their drive to and from school, especially if they’re coming from other classes. The drive from the main campus to the Sugar Land location takes approximately 40 minutes without traffic. 

Computer engineering technology senior Quynh Dinh said that many of her friends in biotechnology and construction management program are not happy about the move.

“One of my friends who is in the (industrial) construction management program has class over there and he lives on campus, so that’s pretty far — almost 30 miles from here,” Dinh said. “I have friends that live an hour away, and going to Sugar Land is like going to the other side of the world for them.”

Even so, Dinh felt that students were given an adequate amount of time to prepare for the move when it was announced this Fall.

Digital media junior Joshua Espinoza, who already has classes in the Sugar Land campus, said that the move is not as unpleasant as students think and is ultimately worth it.

“I think that this move will actually be beneficial because things are so much more centralized over there,” Espinoza said. “There’s a lot better equipment and everything is so much more personalized to different majors.” 

Ensuring a seamless switch

College of Technology Dean Neil Eldin said that President and Chancellor Renu Khator ultimately made the decision to move the programs. He also said that it was his job to inform all students of the relocation and provide ways to make the transition less stressful.

Eldin said he went to five different biotechnology classrooms, met the students and explained to them why the move was important. He also allowed the students to ask questions and give feedback.  

“As the dean, my input is making sure that the move is facilitated and stress-free for the students,” Eldin said. “Creating the exact timing for the move, making sure that all the labs are the best they can be, trying to make the move smart.”

To make the move less tense, Eldin made sure all biotechnology classes are only offered three days of the week. His goal was to allow driving time for students who need to be on the main campus for other courses.

Plans for a shuttle are also being finalized, Eldin said. 

Currently, the shuttle that takes students to the Sugar Land campus arrives at specific times, but Eldin is trying to implement a by-the-hour shuttle to help students. 

New neighborhood, new opportunities

While there are different reasons for these programs moving, the most important was the need to accommodate the growing number of students.

“We went from around 2,000 to 3,000 students to over 6,000 students,” Eldin said. “Right now, we have three buildings on the main campus and we already outgrew them all.”

Eldin estimated that in a couple of years, the Sugar Land campus will house about 2,000 students within the College of Technology alone. He said that there is a possibility for other programs within the college to move to Sugar Land, but the transitions will be gradual.  

However, Eldin believes it is unlikely that the entire college will eventually move to Sugar Land due to financial constraints and the number of buildings that would need to be built — including two or three just for the College of Technology.

Sanderson, however, believes that once a new building is constructed in Sugar Land, UH will also move other programs from different colleges off campus.

“If I recall correctly, UH is also building off of 99 and Interstate 10,” Sanderson said. “So with more expansion, it doesn’t seem like just the College of Technology will be leaving and that there will be a lot of different parts of the university moving overtime.”

To Eldin, this is not a bad thing. He believes that expanding the reach of the University can help benefit the students by generating internships and jobs.

William Fitzgibbon, the former College of Technology dean, declined to comment on the move, feeling that it was no longer his place to. He did, however, leave one comment about UH and the College of Technology.

“Curiously enough, history shows that the success of the College of Technology parallels that of the University,” Fitzgibbon said. “When the College of Technology does well, UH does well.”

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