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The sound you heard across Lincoln and beyond last week signaled the coming of the 2019-20 school year for Nebraska-based colleges and universities.

Students have now settled into their dormitories. Professors have finalized their semester syllabi. Campuses have been carefully manicured in preparation for the first day of class.

But there is a lot else that's new across higher education in Nebraska this fall:

New look to R Street

The street running east and west along the southern edge of UNL's City Campus will feature new parking configurations, bike lanes and improved aesthetics.

What's new on campus?, 8.23

Pedestrians cross R Street on a freshly painted crosswalk at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln City Campus on Friday. In a joint project between UNL and the city of Lincoln, the parking was reconfigured, bike lanes were striped and crosswalks were refreshed.

The joint project between UNL and the city of Lincoln is aimed at making R Street more visually appealing and safer for pedestrians — mainly students walking between campus and downtown — and cyclists traveling between 12th and 16th streets.

Work began on the project about a month ago and is hurtling toward completion as crews re-stripe parking lanes, install parking meters and paint new bike lanes. New vegetation will also adorn the stretch of street in the future.

While UNL lost some parking on R Street because of a switch from angled parking to parallel parking, recent upgrades on nearby 16th and 17th streets have actually increased the overall number of parking spaces on City Campus.

Diversity office off and running

Years of conversations and planning led to the hiring of Marco Barker as UNL's first vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. Barker, who came to UNL from Westminster College in Utah, arrived in Lincoln in April and will begin his first full school year starting Monday.

Barker said he hopes to engage more students in diversity and inclusion activities throughout the school year.

Marco Barker, 7.11

Marco Barker, UNL’s new diversity chief, said he hopes to engage more students in diversity and inclusion activities throughout the school year.

Earlier this month, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion announced Nkenge Friday would become the first assistant vice chancellor in that office. Friday was most recently the dean of students and director of diversity and inclusion at Marietta College in Ohio.

No more Neihardt

Neihardt Raymond Hall, the longtime home for UNL's Honors Program, closed at the end of last school year.

Last year, there were 247 honors students and 72 nonhonors students who lived in the dormitory, which was built in 1932. Those students, and many, many more — 443 honors  students and 83 nonhonors students in all — will now reside in the newer, more modern Knoll Residential Center, just north of the Nebraska Union. UNL has invested $1.5 million into the facilities there in recent years.

Neihardt Raymond Hall

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Honors Program and its students are moving to a new home in the fall of 2019. After being housed in the Neihardt building for much of its existence, the Honors Program will transition to the Knoll residence hall — a bigger, newer facility.

There are no plans for Neihardt Hall at this time. Once connected to the former Cather and Pound dormitory towers imploded in December 2017, Neihardt was spared.

UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green has said the building, the first piece of the residence hall complex, has garnered the support of alumni and others.

A task force has been assembled to examine what use Neihardt could have at UNL in the future, but the building named for Nebraska's poet laureate will remain dark this semester.

Carson Center opening

After closing in June 2015, the Nebraska Bookstore building remained empty for several years. It was briefly targeted by former Husker defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh for a downtown Nike store, but his plans fell through.

A few months later, however, UNL announced a $20 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation to redevelop the entire building into a state-of-the-art facility for performing arts and media students.

What's new on campus?, 8.22

The old Nebraska Bookstore is being redeveloped into the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, a state-of-the-art facility for performing arts and media students.

The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, both the 30,000-square-foot facility on Q Street and the new slate of programs geared toward filmmaking, videogame design, television production, theater, advertising, social media, business and architecture, opens this week.

Dance programs will occupy the northern one-third of the building, while the rest of the programs find new homes in the other two-thirds.

Good start at NWU

Darrin Good will start his first year as president of Nebraska Wesleyan University welcoming the largest incoming class (555) in school history.

The former vice president of academic affairs at Whittier College in California took over for the retiring Fred Ohles earlier this summer.

Darrin Good

Darrin Good

Good won't be the newest guy on the block. Wesleyan is also welcoming 14 new full-time faculty members who will teach everything from art and theater to political science, physics and accounting.

Concordia debuts science center

The science wing of Concordia University's $25 million Dunklau Center for Science, Math and Business opened this month, the first new building on campus in a decade.

Paid for entirely through private funds, including a lead gift of $10 million from the Rupert Dunklau Foundation formed by the former Valmont Industries chief, the building will be home to the Seward university's biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science programs.

Construction on the project, which included 58,000 square feet of new construction and 28,000 square feet of renovations to existing facilities, began in August 2018. The business, math and computer science wings are scheduled to open later this year.

Semesters at SCC

Of the hundreds of community colleges across the country, only 5% divided their academic years into quarters in recent years — Southeast Community College included.

SCC, a two-year career education and academic transfer college, made the switch to semesters for the 2019-20 school year, a move President Paul Illich said will give the college flexibility and help it align better with its four-year partners.

"It will really give students an opportunity to make SCC their first choice if they are looking to go to UNL, Concordia or Wesleyan, since they will all be on the same type of system," Illich said.

The switch took about four years and "a tremendous amount of work" to complete, Illich added. SCC had to determine how its academic programs could switch from quarters to semesters, make changes to its back-office systems and get approval from the Higher Learning Commission.

Renovations to Education Square

SCC's location in downtown Lincoln received a refresh this summer.

Several spaces at Education Square, the headquarters for SCC's academic transfer division and its programs in career and technical education, graphic design, media arts, criminal justice and adult education, were refinished, SCC said.

SCC Open House, 8.22

People mill around Southeast Community College's Education Square on Thursday in downtown Lincoln during an open house showing off the updated space. SCC also enhanced security at the downtown building and students will need ID cards to gain access. 

Along with classrooms and restrooms, Education Square now has new study spaces and a student lounge, an expanded tutoring center and enhanced security.

To access the new space beginning Monday, students will need ID cards.

"We are excited about our new, secure space dedicated to SCC students," said Carolee Ritter, dean of SCC's arts and sciences division.

Breaking down Nebraska's colleges and universities

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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