High Point University: Surrounded by Success

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Take a drive through High Point, North Carolina. Look out your car windows. Chances are, you won't go far without seeing High Point University. It's everywhere. And if you had to film a movie which was set on an idyllic college campus, you would need look no further than right here.

There are red brick buildings that were designed with Georgian architecture influences. There are wide paths and plazas made of clay pavers in colors and textures that complement the buildings. There are 24 separate gardens and an arboretum. The campus is home to 2,500 different kinds of plants and 350 separate kinds of trees. Others have taken notice: High Point University was recently named as a Tree Campus USA for the seventh consecutive year, one of eight four-year colleges and universities in North Carolina to earn this honor.

Now consider this. Much of this is new. More is on the way. And all of it is intentional on a campus that prides itself on a holistic education, experiential learning and values-based living. “Visitors to HPU often remark that the campus feels entrepreneurial or innovative,” says Dr. Nido Qubein, president of High Point University. “There’s no doubt that the campus spirit is energetic, engaging and poised to ignite purposeful action. The inspiring environment at HPU is designed, at its core, to encourage students to connect, create and collaborate.”

Surrounded by Success

High Point University’s campus – its gardens, its landscapes, its classroom buildings and its operations – reflects a philosophy and a design that is intentional and proactive at the same time. The idea? Success – whether you are building a new college on a foundation laid by the hopes and dreams of generations of undergraduates, faculty and staff, or you have newly arrived on a campus that seamlessly blends the old with the new – has a lot to do with surroundings.

“People rise to the level of the environment in which they live,” says Qubein. “Whether students are in class, in their residence hall, on the Kester International Promenade that’s lined with inspirational quotes and sculptures of historical figures, or in one of the library learning common spaces throughout campus, they are consistently surrounded by excellence. They are engaged in every aspect of campus life.”

Much of the environment where students at High Point University live, work and play is made up of new plazas, walkways and buildings, all made of native North Carolina clay, as solid and as durable as the values inherent in the educational process that takes place there.

Humble Beginnings in North Carolina

In the mid-19th century, the Methodist Protestant Church, one of the precursor denominations to the United Methodist Church, made higher education a priority in North Carolina. In the 1920s, the statewide organization voted to establish a college. Citizens in High Point donated 60 acres of land and $100,000.

High Point College was born in 1924 as a joint venture between the church and the citizens of High Point. There were three buildings, nine faculty members and 122 students. Like other private colleges, the Great Depression took a toll on the campus. Despite a $50,000 fundraising campaign, cuts to faculty salaries and other cost-cutting measures, High Point College was forced by 1934 to declare bankruptcy, reorganize and start anew.

From College to University

By the early 1990s, under the guidance of former college president Dr. Jacob C. Martinson, Jr. and the Board of Trustees, High Point College changed its name to High Point University because it had begun offering graduate degrees. At about the same time, an ambitious program that saw renovation to every building on campus was undertaken. In 2005, the university was centered on a 92-acre landlocked campus with a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,450, an operating budget of $38 million and 108 faculty members. Things have changed.

Since then:

  • Campus size has increased 346 percent, from 92 acres to 410 acres, with building space increasing by 441 percent, from 740,000 to 4 million square feet.
  • Traditional student enrollment is up by 203 percent, from 1,450 to 4,400, while fulltime faculty has increased by 156 percent, from 108 to 277.
  • The budget has increased by 663 percent, from $38 million to $290 million.

Intentional and Proactive

Steve Potter, who is vice president for facilities and auxiliary operations, says that two projects – the Promenade and the Student Success Building – are both examples of efforts to directly address the idea of encouraging success through landscaping and hardscaping design. The Promenade was originally a High Point city street – Montlieu Avenue. In its original incarnation, four sidewalks ran the length of it, an airport runway of sorts to academic buildings.

“We redesigned the whole space so that it wasn’t so linear and it created a park atmosphere,” says Potter. “We kept two linear elements going down it – we really wanted to beautify the space using clay pavers instead of concrete.” The clay pavers specified were English Edge Full Range and the buildings were built of HPU Blend, a custom color; both were made by Pine Hall Brick Company. “It’s more of a cleaner look than you have with concrete,” says Potter. “It is richer, a more sophisticated look. It’s a traditional color but we have been using different fields for different seating areas which is something we haven’t done in the past.”

Student Success Center

The second project is the Student Success Center. Inside, students work with advisors to hone skills that will prepare them for the world beyond college. It uses mock interviews, LinkedIn and resume workshops, as well as career expos that bring employers to campus to recruit. Outside, the spaces include a plaza in which are created learning environments, fire pits and seating areas that appeal to impromptu gatherings.

Upcoming will be new facilities for health sciences, which will house new graduate programs for physician assistants and pharmacists. Like the rest of the campus, the buildings are planned with Georgian architecture in mind and will be built of HP Blend red brick, with clay paver pathways of the same material. “We are looking to create an inspiring environment for our students,” says Potter. “It’s not just about the brick and the landscaping and the arboretum; it is about pulling all of that together. We want them to strive for the best and so that’s why we put in the best. We want to use authentic products, to be the best in everything we do and we feel like these are the best products for the results we want.”

Qubein says there’s another, better definition for why the environment works. “At HPU, we call it experiential learning,” says Qubein. “But it may be best explained by the old Chinese proverb: I hear and I forget. I see and I might remember. I do and then I understand.”

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About the Author
Walt Steele is a recognized expert on clay pavers. He is paver business manager for Pine Hall Brick Company, America's largest manufacturer of clay pavers. Steele can be reached at (800) 334-8689 and by email at waltsteele@pinehallbrick.com. Learn more at www.PineHallBrick.com.