There is no record of who the first UNO international student was, where he or she called home, or when that person came to campus.
For most of the university’s history, though, the international student presence was fairly meager.
In 1974, when Dean of International Studies Tom Gouttierre arrived at UNO, just 13 students hailed from somewhere other than the United States.
That’s changed dramatically under Gouttierre’s watch.
Today, more than 1,700 international students, scholars and participants from more than 120 countries call UNO home. The students have an economic impact on Omaha estimated at $46 million annually.
Merry Ellen Turner, director of International Programs, says many of the international students over the decades come to view Omaha as their second home. Being surrounded by ‘Midwestern nice” makes a difference. Some families from abroad have sent multiple sons and daughters over the years.
“Omaha is a very welcoming community,” Turner says. “We’ve been very lucky in that respect.”
UNO makes sure international students have access to a full student life experience. The right housing, host families, and on- and off-campus activities are important, says Lori Arias, assistant director of International Student Services. Her office also helps with the day-in, day-out issues of being a foreign student, such as help with immigration compliance, academic advising and providing health service referrals. International students also have 24-hour emergency phone numbers of International Studies and Programs advisors.
“We provide service beyond what most schools do because we care about their (the students’) impression of the U.S. and UNO,” Arias says. She coordinates even the first moments a new international student has in Omaha, when UNO volunteers meet them at the airport.
Recently, the largest numbers of internationals have come from five countries — Saudi Arabia, China, India, South Korea and Japan. More than 250 Saudi students attended UNO in 2010-11.
Another indicator of UNO’s international success is the pace at which the university adds foreign students. Nationally, during the 2010-11 academic year, student numbers increased about 5 percent, which can be attributed to improving economics and greater accessibility to student visas. At UNO during the same period, the international student body grew about 10 percent, Turner says.
“Having our students on campus enriches the college experience for every student,” Turner says. “Tuition dollars and economic impact are important, but having international students on campus is what a university should be about.”
— By Tim Kaldahl, Assistant Editor
It’s not that often that a UNO classroom gets to take a country ride.
The actual classroom, that is, not the students.
In January, though, a 19th century barn and silo trekked four miles to their new home, UNO’s Allwine Prairie Preserve, where they will be used as classroom and laboratory space. The 160-acre preserve is a restored tallgrass prairie just northwest of Omaha. More than 1,300 students visit it each year.
The barn and silo, built in the late 1800s, once belonged to Roy and Bess Johnson, dairy farmers in western Douglas County. Their granddaughter, Omahan Barbi Hayes, donated the barn and silo to UNO, as well as more than $600,000 for moving expenses.
Moving day came Jan. 12 when two large Mack trucks, each with an attached trailer, took the barn and silo along country roads to the preserve, located at 144th & State Streets.
The trip commenced at a crawl. Movers from Scrib’s Moving and Heavy Hauling of David City, Neb., walked along side the caravan, frequently checking the levels and hydraulics of the barn and silo on their trailers. The journey took eight hours.
A few days later barn and silo were lowered onto new foundations. Renovation of the structures begins with the addition of an elevator and restrooms. A state-of-the-art field lab, classroom, kitchen and library will come next. The barn will connect via walkway to the silo, which will be redesigned as a lookout tower.
“We’ll use them for outreach to K-12 and college students who are doing research,” says Tom Bragg, UNO biology professor and the preserve’s director. “The barn’s laboratory will open directly onto the prairie while the hayloft can be used for large groups.”
— Tim Fitzgerald, University Relations
As the university moves closer to 2020 and the needs of a growing student population evolve, it becomes necessary to expand the campus and its offerings to the community. In 2012, UNO designed or created these new homes.
Biomechanics Research Facility
Breaking free of its current cramped confines in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation building (HPER), the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility soon will have 23,000 square feet of new research space.
The privately funded Biomechanics Research Facility will be located southwest of Al Caniglia Field and house departments and programs including the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility led by UNO professor of biomechanics Nick Stergiou. Construction began in June with a target completion of August 2013.
Stergiou and his fellow researchers will utilize the new space to continue their work in the study of human movement, including groundbreaking research on cerebral palsy.
The Biomechanics Research Facility also will house UNO's new Ph.D. in exercise science program.
“A premier Ph.D. program in exercise science was unavailable to students in the Nebraska region,” says Deborah Smith Howell, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean for Graduate Studies. “UNO leads in this area of study, and it made sense to develop a Ph.D. program to complement our master’s programming health, physical education and recreation, as well as athletic training.
"It is critical that students who want to study and work in the Nebraska area have excellent choices, and now UNO offers this additional level of education in exercise science.”
Military and Veteran University Services Office (MaV USO)
UNO's new Military and Veteran University Services Office (MaV USO) opened April 2. Housed on the first floor of the Gene Eppley Administration Building, MaV USO is the result of two years of assessing how the needs of military and veteran students were being met by services offered at UNO. The office was designed based on feedback from student surveys and features a virtual presence for students stationed or deployed around the globe.
MaV USO is staffed by individuals with personal affiliations to the military. It is available to current military and veteran students at UNO and to prospective students with military affiliations. The office will help students better navigate the university, whether in person or online, and discover and utilize programs and services available to them at UNO, such as GI Bill assistance, transfer credits and other academic support.
It also will help address concerns outlined in survey responses, including the transitional concerns some military and veterans face adapting to the university environment (particularly if they are dealing with PTSD or other trauma-based injuries received in combat).
"It's a very exciting opportunity for UNO to better meet the unique needs of this student population and make sure they receive the support they need to be successful in their education pursuits," says MaV USO Director, Hayley Patton.
A grand opening for MaV USO will take place this fall.
Community Engagement Center
After much discussion, there finally came time for construction.
Of UNO’s new Community Engagement Center, that is.
Groundbreaking began in May for the new facility, which will provide additional office and meeting spaces, learning spaces and community areas to support the university's engagement and work with community partners and the public.
The center will be Located between the Dr. C.C. Mabel L. Criss Library and the College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS) building. It will house many of the university's current outreach programs and create new ones.
Other universities have similar centers of collaboration and engagement, but UNO's Community Engagement Center will be the first of its kind in the nation in terms of size, focus and potential impact.
Visitors to the center will be able to observe the interactions of university and community representatives through the walls of the glass-enclosed conference rooms, use the center's state-of-the-art technology to sign up for current or future community service activities, participate in special events, or attend open lectures.
— Sarah Casey, University Relations
Zeroing in on Home Savings
UNO students help build a house
they hope eliminates energy bills
In the blistering heat of summer and bone-chilling cold of winter, home energy consumption tends to be on everybody’s mind.
Avery Schwer thinks of it year-round.
Schwer is an associate professor of construction systems in UNO’s Peter Kiewit Institute. For the past four years, he and his students have been constructing a zero-net energy test house — aka, ZNETH — near UNO’s Peter Kiewit Institute. Construction on the 2,000-square-foot ZNETH was finished in January 2012 and its first occupants, students, take residence this fall.
“What we did anybody could do,” Schwer says “whether you are renovating or building your home.”
One goal is to have the house consume as little electrical energy as possible. Since its completion, ZNETH has become the first home in Nebraska to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. UNO’s Mammel Hall is LEED Gold certified for its commitment to sustainability.
To limit energy consumption ZNETH was fitted with a geothermal heat pump, which captures heat from the earth in the winter and rejects the heat back into the earth during the summer. The geothermal system alone could lower energy bills up to 60 percent. Insulation is critical to that process, though, says Brad Cory, a UNO Ph.D. student helping Schwer with the project.
“A good insulation should do two things: it should stop air leakage and prevent moisture,” Cory says. “Closed cell spray foam is both, a moisture barrier and air barrier. Also, it helps deaden sounds in the walls of the house, which helps homeowners to have a quite peaceful home.”
Other energy-saving features in ZNETH include:
• Roof-based solar panels as thin as laminate stickers to convert the sun’s rays to electricity.
• Cisterns buried in the lawn to collect rainwater to be used for a garden and plants.
• A wind turbine that converts frequently blustery days into energy.
• A real-time energy management system.
Combined, the technology is meant to produce more energy than the home consumes.
Indoor air quality also was addressed.
“We included things like solid-surface flooring, porcelain tile, reused an old oak floor and purchased products with low-volatile, organic-containing compounds, like in paints and adhesives, that are not harmful for occupants to breathe in,” Schwer says.
Building a house wasn’t the ZNETH team’s only challenge. They also wanted to make it a home.
“What we are doing uses the open design concept,” Schwer says. “What you are doing is taking a smaller space and opening it up to make it more livable.”
ZNETH has few walls, and those that exist are designed as dividers rather than barriers. Large windows were placed to capture as much natural light as possible without causing glare.
“Natural lighting feels good,” Schwer says. “That’s what people are attracted to.”
Now that the house is completed, the next step involves creating and placing devices to monitor how much energy is used when the house is occupied. Students will monitor the results. Schwer says everything needs to be in perfect working order so as to not affect results of the tests.
ZNETH likely won’t be the last home UNO students build. Cory now is exploring ways to build a ZNETH-passive house — one that uses even less energy than ZNETH 1.
He says it’s important all homeowners consider making changes to their own energy consumption habits. ZNETH, he adds, provides a blueprint to literally do just that.
“We hope this project inspires others to take some of our energy and design principles and build their own net zero home.”
— Charley Reed, University Relations
A ZNETH of his own
Zero Net Energy Test Home (ZNETH) participant and UNO sustainability champion Patrick Wheeler has tried to “walk the talk” while building a ZNETH-like house of his own.
It was a walk that took him down unexpected paths.
“We started with the premise of wanting a healthy home, then tried to incorporate as much energy efficient and sustainable attributes as possible,” Wheeler says.
With 1,735 square feet on the main floor and 1,500 more in the basement, Wheeler and his wife, Diane, were deliberate and judicious in the use of space.
“Our bedrooms are small, and we’re OK with that because we have a larger kitchen and dinette space,” Patrick says.
Natural light floods the home. “With the help of our double-pane Anderson windows and two sun tunnels, during the day there are only two rooms that light switches are used: bathroom and mudroom,” Wheeler says.
The house is wired to someday run entirely on solar power (one solar panel already is on the roof). And the three-car garage is pre-wired for an electric car.
Natural gas won’t be found. Wheeler says Nebraska leads the country in number of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, and the Wheelers wanted a no-emissions house. The biggest expense in the home was the geothermal system.
Other features: An 85 Salon Marathon water heater; a 2-ton, two-stage heat pump; sealed footings and foundation; thicker exterior walls; hardwood and tile floors throughout (eliminating use of toxic glues); and high-rated insulation.
“Best return on your money is to properly insulate your attic,” Wheeler says. “It pays off with heating and cooling.”
The Wheelers moved in to their new home in mid-April. Patrick plans to create a website exploring the building process and sustainable choices made building his very own ZNETH home.
— By Becky Bohan Brown, University Relations