This campus is a growing one with an addiction to change. With rapid development comes a lot of perspectives.
Each fall, the new students of the incoming class get acquainted with a school they know to be Belmont, but a graduate of 2005 would not recognize his own college campus today.
A freshman this fall only sees the greatness Belmont has to offer today. He thinks Papa John’s Pizza for lunch sounds divine, while a senior craving greasy, fried WOW Chicken Tenders will roll his eyes at the freshman’s slice of pepperoni and walk away with a stomach growling for something of the past.
Students in the upcoming graduating class of 2015 entered Belmont as freshmen in 2011. In 2011, there were no graduate law classes, nor were there Chic-fil-A Waffle Fries or Starbucks Caramel Frappuccinos.
It was a simpler time, a time where getting coffee on campus meant running in What’s Bruin’?, a time where going to chemistry in Hitch Science Building meant an elevator ride that threatened death. Jeni Abercrombie is a senior English major at Belmont, she said she’s a little sad to see Wheeler and Hitch go.
“I’m anxious to see something expand that was designed to be small,” Abercrombie said.
The new buildings are beautiful, she said, but she doesn’t want the campus to lose its historical aspects, nor does she want this accelerated growth to make Belmont feel like an institution or worse: a state school.
“I’m wondering if Belmont‘s growth is trying to mirror Nashville’s growth,” Abercrombie said.
Physical barriers will lead to Belmont’s plateau, Abercrombie said. She sees that plateau coming sooner rather than later.
The search for the public eye that Belmont craves shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of its students, she said as she looked back on being cramped in a triple-room in Patton Hall her freshman year.
“Even if the school reaches Eighth Avenue South, the professors will not let Belmont lose what makes it special,” Abercrombie said.
What makes it special to Abercrombie is the small classrooms, the quaintness of the school and most of all, the home it gives to the unique “misfit” students who choose Belmont because of its size and tight community. Apart from her concerns, she is proud to see Belmont strive.
“Being an avid Starbucks drinker, I am overjoyed to see it on campus. My wallet may not be overjoyed, but I am,” Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie has experienced a changing Belmont within the last three years, but for many Bruins, the evolution started way earlier. Belmont athletics’ administrative assistant Julie Beazley, has seen Belmont evolve continuously for almost two decades. She believes there may be a time when Belmont decides to stop growing.
“It’ll end at President Fisher’s retirement,” she said.
All of the opportunities and choices students have now, whether it’s fields of study or what to grab for lunch are benefits of changes she’s seen. She does remember, however the benefits of being a smaller school, too.
“When Belmont was smaller, I walked through campus, and I’d recognize faces. Now I think ‘Who’s that?’” Beazley said.
It just comes with numbers, she said. The closer knit community is something Beazley sees diminishing. Junior Trevor McConnell also sees the social change that accompanies growth. Her favorite thing about Belmont is the simply the people.
“A freshman’s Belmont is bigger now. They won’t have the same community we did,” McConnell said.
Belmont University’s student population has nearly doubled in the past 11 years, according to Nashville Business Journal and Forbes Magazine.A freshman in 2003, Megan Davis was one of only 3,650 students at Belmont University. She experienced big changes during her four years.
As a nursing major, the construction of Inman Health and Sciences in 2006 created a whole new Belmont for her. She got the privilege to shake hands with Gordon E. Inman and that moment meant no more walking down Belmont Boulevard to a separate building for science classes and no more doing labs in a portable classroom. Since graduating in 2007, she has seen the growth continue by being a member of the Young Alumni Association for three years and a big sister to senior public relations major Mary Anna Davis.
Davis enjoys visiting campus with her younger sister; however, she has not gone in new buildings such as McWhorter, Baskin and the Wedgewood Academic Center.
“Well, I‘m hesitant because that’s not my school,” Davis said.
Davis had many classes in Hitch and is sad to see it go along with Wheeler. She attended the farewell event in February for these two brick staples of campus. There are many things on campus students today don’t think twice about, but alumni see as unrecognizable. The Belmont Davis attended had no Trout Theater down the street, no Dickens Hall apartment-style dorms and no McAlister’s Deli tempting students with its Famous Sweet Tea.
The Belmont she belonged to was one where watching eye-candy at the tennis courts was a girl’s favorite past time. Yes, just a few years ago there were tennis courts on campus, as well as soccer goals. In Davis’s time, games took place on campus.She reminisced on the student activities she enjoyed as a Bruin. Fall Follies was one of her favorites. It was always popular among students and filled Massey Performing Arts Center back in her day.
“Thank God some things never change,” she said.
With the striking population growth, Davis gives credit to the school for keeping its student-to-faculty ratio. That is what makes it special, Davis said of the university’s small classes and close relations between students and professors.
Belmont University was built upon change and only has more of it in its future. Every student who passes through this college will leave with memories unique to them and unique to the Belmont they attended.
This article was written by Alexandria Hurst.