Year In Review

As the ’07-’08 academic year comes to a close at Villanova, The Villanovan looks back on the top 10 stories of the year. This year’s coverage has ranged from a visit to the Sweet 16 by our men’s basketball team to the University hosting a Republican presidential candidate on national TV. To say the least, this year has propelled the University to a new level of recognition and left its students and alumni recharged with that “Wildcat Pride.” Keep up the good work, Villanova, and we look forward to even more excitement next year!

1. Campus Master Plan

The University has experienced a period of exponential growth over the past decade. To keep up with the surging number of applicants and interest, the University began unveiling its Campus Master Plan in August 2007 through the University’s Web site. Even before that, construction on the Davis Center jump started what looks to be several years of ongoing improvements to the University. The University has spent a considerable amount of time and money evaluating its future. The plan seeks to go beyond construction of the nursing school building (scheduled to open in fall 2009) and the law school building (scheduled to open in fall 2010) and the renovation of current buildings, such as Tolentine. One objective of the plan seeks to find space to foster community involvement and student participation in University activities. Other potential objectives including making the campus more pedestrian-friendly, building a development for student housing, administrative offices, a new location for the University Shop, non-University retail space, structured parking and a performing arts center. Should the currently proposed plan gain approval, the University will look drastically different in a decade or two.

2. Campaigns on campus

Villanova students have often had the undesirable reputation of being politically apathetic. This past semester, Villanova students have done much to shed that reputation. The transformation began during the fall semester when numerous Ron Paul supporters, armed with chalk, began waging war on political apathy. As Paul’s campaign lost speed nationally, other political groups stepped in to support their candidates. This past semester, Villanova has hosted the campaigns of three presidential hopefuls. The Obama campaign was the first to visit when Michelle Obama spoke to a capacity crowd in the Jake Nevin Field House back in March. She even had her fair share of diligent supporters and detractors who weren’t admitted. Not to be outdone, the Clinton campaign made its mark on the campus by sending Chelsea Clinton to the Belle Air Terrace in early April for an intimate question and answer session. A few days later, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain came to the Pavilion for the “Hardball” College Tour with Chris Matthews. Over the course of two semesters, Villanova has transformed from politically apathetic to a political hotbed worthy of the attention of the next president.

3. Sweet 16

While the basketball team had been to the Sweet 16 in three of the past four years, the accomplishment is no less impressive. Coach Wright and the Wildcats have made a name for themselves as a basketball force to be reckoned with come tourney time. This year’s Sweet 16 visit was perhaps the most impressive of the three. The last two teams featured three NBA-caliber players who provided veteran leadership. This year Scottie Reynolds, arguably the team’s best player, was a sophomore with only one game of tournament experience. Their Sweet 16 run was nothing short of gutsy, but even making the tournament was a challenge. After starting the season in the Top 25 and winning 13 of their first 16 games, the Wildcats dropped six of their next seven and their NCAA dreams were in jeopardy. It wasn’t until a great end-of-the year run and a strong showing in the Big East tournament that their postseason spot was secured. After beating the long odds and making it to the dance, the Wildcats surprised the higher-seeded Clemson team in “Upset City” and went on to beat Siena in the second round to clinch their spot in the Sweet 16. Although they lost to the eventual National Champion Kansas (their third loss to the National Champion in four years), the Wildcats proved their merit. With another year under the belts, the ‘Cats are posied for another run next year.

4. Endowment

Transforming minds and hearts is a noble goal, but sometimes it requires some money. A school’s endowment has long served as a signal for the well-being and prominence of a university, and it has always served as a weak spot on Villanova’s otherwise strong resumé. The Transforming Minds and Hearts campaign was started in 2001 with a strategizing phase. By December 2004, the campaign had collected $130 million in donations. When University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., took over for President Emeritus Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., in the fall of 2006 the University had reached $210 million. Overall, the campaign brought the University’s endowment to $360 million, which is $340 million more than it was in 1988. All this money is not just for show, money from the campaign has been allocated to fund scholarships, as well as academic initiatives and teaching programs. The achievement was celebrated with an extravagant gala at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City; an achievement of this magnitude deserves an appropriately awesome party.

5. ‘Nova Virus

Within a few weeks of returning to campus for the spring semester, many students grew aware of an apparent epidemic traveling around campus. Over 100 cases of the norovirus or Norwalk-like virus were reported by students and many more were concerned about contracting the disease. While the proximity of students to each other at college naturally makes outbreaks similar to this commonplace, the side effects associated with the virus as well as the media attention it received from local media outlets worried students more so than usual. Some students questioned the lack of information from the administration, while others just looked forward to the potential closing of school. In the end, everyone was fine, with only a few students needing treatment for dehydration.