Hayes Ring Plaza

Checking Out Texas A&M University

To close out winter break and start off 2019, I visited College Station to explore one of the largest universities in the nation – Texas A&M. Having been to many of the institutions of higher education that make up our state, I wanted to see what comprised Aggieland, as well as to cross Brazos County off the list of counties yet to be visited.

With a student body of over 68,000, the College Station campus is A&M’s flagship school in their system, which is made up of 11 different campuses. Texas A&M was established in 1871 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, under the Morrill Act. 148 years later, this school is stronger than ever, with some $9.8 billion in endowments and 4,900 staff on the payroll. Additionally, A&M is also one of the largest college campuses in the nation, at over 5,000 acres.

Upon arriving, I parked at the Cain Garage, located directly across from Kyle Field. Since it was the weekend, there weren’t many cars there, so spaces were plentiful on the first floor right by the entrance. Parking fees were still being collected, although it only amounted to $4 for the hour or so I spent here. The car now in a place where it wouldn’t be towed, I was ready to start seeing TAMU.

cain garage at Texas A&M
The Cain Garage.

My first stop along my walking tour was Kyle Field, the school’s ginormous football stadium. To give you an idea of what “ginormous” means in this context, Kyle Field is the fourth-largest stadium in the nation!

All around the stadium, the saying “Home of the 12th Man” can be seen. This term dates back to 1922 when an Aggie by the name of E. King Gill suited up to help his team, who had sustained multiple injuries in a grueling game against Kentucky’s Centre College. Although he never ended up entering the field, the “12th Man” is representative of the A&M student body, who are willing to serve when duty calls. Duty and loyalty are common themes here, as I would see all throughout my visit.

kyle field a&m
One of the entrances into Kyle Field. Several statues are displayed around the stadium.

Past the stadium, around a five-minute walk away, was the Haynes Ring Plaza, home of a giant 12-foot replica of the iconic A&M class ring!

Hayes Ring Plaza

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For students, “Aggie Ring Day” is one of the most notable events that they will attend during their time here, as it symbolizes the completion of a specific set of academic requirements, and induction into an exclusive network of fellow Aggies. Ring Day takes place at the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center, located right next to the replica ring. Alongside the walkway, various Aggie quotes of respect, loyalty, and honor are displayed.

Haynes Ring Plaza

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After getting my photo taken underneath one of the most unique outdoor artifacts I’ve seen at a university, I began checking out the various buildings that make up Aggieland. Rudder Tower, named after former university president James Earl Rudder, was one of my first stops.

Rudder Tower at Texas A&M
Rudder Tower.

On the first floor is the Aggieland Visitor Center, where you can get maps, brochures, or go on tours of campus. A backdrop of the A&M school logo off to the side provided for a good photo op.

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If you are looking for a place to dine and get some good views of campus, the University Club, located on the 11th floor might just be your ideal spot. It was closed when I visited, however, according to their website they serve a buffet Monday thru Friday. It looks like a great spot to break for lunch during a weekday visit!

Heading further into the center of the school, I found myself on the Military Walk, one of the main walkways of A&M. Rooted in tradition, this was the spot where for years, the students making up the Corps of Cadets gathered daily. Many of these Aggies went on to become leaders in their respective fields.

Military Walk at Texas A&M
Military Walk.

Descriptions of the various notable points of the school’s history were displayed on both sides of the walkway. These signs provided me with a good introduction and understanding of the history I was surrounded by.

Military Walk at Texas A&M

Continuing along, I decided to go check out a building that I had seen while driving in – this tall building with an airport control tower “cab” look to it at the top. After walking for around ten minutes, I finally got to it. This structure was none other than the Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building, the tallest building on campus.

Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building
The Eller Oceanography & Meteorology Building.

Although it was closed for Winter Break, this 15-story building sure has an interesting design! Upon doing some Googling back home, I discovered that a Doppler radar unit is mounted on the roof. With all those panoramic windows, it would sure be nice to see the view from the 15th floor. Speaking of architecture, that is one area A&M is lacking in. Most of the buildings can be described as being pretty bureaucratic and plain. Several pieces of public art lined the courtyards and walkways, but it wasn’t anything super special by any means.

texas a&m campus

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The next stop was to the Sterling C. Evans Library, one of five libraries on campus.

Sterling C. Evans library
The Sterling C. Evans Library.

Inside, rows and rows of books lined the six different floors. If you want a good view of campus, head up to the sixth-floor graduate study lounge. Everything here was open to the public, so visitors can waltz right on in to see the landscape of A&M.

Sterling C. Evans library

 

On the first floor, there was a sizeable computer/study area, which works well for research or group collaboration.

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Heading out, I came across a replica of A&M’s mascot, Reveille the Dog on the first floor by the circulation desk. Reveille has served as the school mascot since the 30s, and there have been nine lucky dogs that have held this title. The Reveilles that have passed away have their own cemetery close to Kyle Field, complete with a mini-scoreboard so they can see the 12th Man outscore the visiting team!

Sterling C. Evans library
Reveille the Dog greets all who visit the library.

My last stop on my way back to the car was at the Memorial Student Center, A&M’s student union.

Memorial Student Center
The Memorial Student Center.

Located close to the Cain Garage and Kyle Field, this student union was one of the newer buildings on campus. Inside, you can find everything from the bookstore to different spots to hang out. Many of the facilities inside are named after the values and traditions of the university, such as Respect Lounge and 12th Man Hall. In fact, this whole building is considered a living memorial to those Aggies that gave their lives defending our nation. To that end, signs on the doors instruct visitors to remove their hats upon entering as a sign of respect.

Memorial Student Center
The main lobby of the Memorial Student Center. Banners overhead display the core values of the university.
Memorial Student Center
The Barnes and Noble bookstore inside the MSC.

One unique spot in the MSC is The Flag Room. Nicknamed the “living room” of A&M, it contains sofas, tables, and even a grand piano! This spot is great for Aggies and visitors alike to sit down, hang out, and take in the culture of the university.

Memorial Student Union Flag Room
The Flag Room is one great place to take a break and experience some of A&M’s history.

As the name suggests, the room contains various flags used in the history of the university, including many of those belonging to the Corps of Cadets. Other A&M memorabilia was displayed, making it an interesting location to congregate and learn about the history of the school!

Memorial Student Center Flag Room
Some of the many flags displayed in the Flag Room.

In conclusion, this was one nice first visit to see one of Texas’ most well-known schools, and one that has so many different customs and traditions. This campus is simply humongous, and could easily take half a day or more to see everything. With that in mind, a second trip is already in the works for when the government reopens, to visit the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, located on the edge of campus! A lunch stop at the University Club would also be included in the itinerary.

Texas A&M water tower
This water tower reminds you that you are in Aggieland!

 

 

Ames: Home of Iowa State University

After finishing up seeing places like John Deere’s plant and the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines, I headed off for the college town of Ames, located about 38 miles to the north. Ames, with a population of over 60,000, is home to the largest university in the state- Iowa State University.

Iowa State University

Founded in 1858, Iowa State has been around for 160 years! The school got its start as a land-grant university under the Morrill Act. Although ISU started off focusing on farming and agriculture experimentation, it grew over the years and today offers more than 100 undergraduate majors. Distinctions that were picked up along the way include the birthplace of the first electronic digital computer, and being part of the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for the development of the atomic bomb. The school nickname, the Cyclones, has been around since 1895. After a high number of cyclones(what is now called tornadoes) devastated Iowa that year, ISU’s football team had a 36-0 win over Northwestern State. The press put two and two together, and Iowa State and the Cyclones have been associated ever since.

Arriving on campus, I parked in the east parking deck, which worked out well since no permit was needed in the evening time. From there, I began checking out the many buildings that make up this 1,813-acre campus. The first place I explored was the Gerdin Business Building, home to the Ivy College of Business.

Gerdin Business Building

One of the newer buildings on campus, the atmosphere and environment inside were pretty positive. It felt like a great place for learning and studying in pursuit of an accounting, finance, or other business degree. The interior setup reminded me a bit of my own school, UT Dallas.

Gerdin Business Building
The hallways of the Gerdin Business Building.

As I always do when visiting a school, I went into a few of their classrooms and lecture halls. ISU has a pretty standard setup, although their lecture halls are rather big compared to UTD. I am not a fan of large class sizes since you get much less attention as a student, but that seems to be the case at the majority of public universities wherever you go.

Gerdin Business Building Lecture Hall
A typical lecture hall.

The Memorial Union was my next stop, and is home to the school’s student union.

Memorial Union at Iowa State
The Memorial Union.

Inside, you can find everything from a bookstore packed with Cyclone merchandise, to a food court, and even a bowling alley! Although it was pretty dead when I went, I imagine this place gets pretty packed during the school year. Upon walking in, signs pointed the way to a hotel, so I went to ask one of the student workers about its whereabouts. It turned out there indeed was one, but it has since been closed. Nevertheless, I thought that was pretty cool as it was my first time seeing a hotel on university grounds.

Iowa State University Memorial Union
Walking down the hallways of the Memorial Union. School history and pictures line the walls.

Student life seems to be a big part of this university, and there certainly were many activities that could be done here at the Memorial Union. In addition, there were also quite a few areas where you could just sit somewhere comfortable and knock out homework.

Speaking of student life, Katie, an ISU alumna, had this to say about her time here: “I was lucky to spend four great years at Iowa State. Ames was a true college town – bustling during the school year, and quiet during the summer. The college and its students are the heartbeat of the town. I remember plenty of cold days walking to class in the snow – bundled up, fighting the wind, but somehow not really minding it. Iowa State is one of the Land Grant Universities, which means (among other things) there is lots of green space and the historic buildings are well maintained to reflect the periods in which they were built. I always tell people that it’s almost surprising to find such a beautiful place in the midst of Midwestern farmland. Weekend nights (starting Friday after class) were spent on Welch Avenue. Serious social scene!”

Iowa State University Cy Mascot
Cy the Cardinal, the official mascot of Iowa State. He can be seen at pep rallies and school events, and statues of him can be found around campus!

Katie mentioned something that I loved about here – all the green scenery. While walking thru campus, it felt like I was in a gigantic park. With plenty of trees and places to spread out, it gave off a very relaxing and calming feeling.

Iowa State Campus

On the west side of campus, I checked out the engineering buildings. Engineering(along with agriculture) are some of the oldest departments in the university. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy has their Ames Laboratory on campus, the only one of its kind!

Black Engineering Building - Iowa State University

Iowa State Engineering sign

The classrooms inside were much more old-school, but still looked like a great environment for learning.

Iowa State Engineering Classroom
An engineering school classroom. It’s been a while since I’ve come across a chalkboard!

Before heading to check out the athletic complex, I swung by to see the Parks Library. This modern learning commons didn’t have many people inside at the time, but I can almost say for certain during the school year it’s a busy place. I didn’t go upstairs, but I’m sure that there were plentiful amounts of books and other information contained here for pretty much any major on campus.

picture of the iowa state parks library
The Parks Library.

Since it was a bit too far to walk, I decided to drive to Jack Trice Stadium, home of the Iowa State Cyclones football team. Located on the far southeast side of campus, Jack Trice opened in 1975 and boasts a seating capacity of 61,500. It’s not as big as Memorial Stadium at the University of Nebraska, but looked to be very well-designed.

Although Katie lives in Texas now, she still cheers on the Cyclones, and said of a typical game day here: “During football season, Saturdays were spent at Jack Trice. Tailgaters from across the state would show up hours in advance and set up camp – tents, grills, radios…you name it! The tailgates went on for blocks and blocks; young and old celebrating their beloved Cyclones.” This didn’t surprise me, especially being that ISU is part of the Big 12 Conference. For those stopping by here, you can grab free posters and game schedules at the Jacobson Athletic Building, which is connected to the stadium.

Wrapping up my visit to ISU, I have to say that based on what I saw, I left with a very good impression of the Cyclone Nation. The combination of buildings, green scenery, athletics and really just the environment in general made me think that Iowa State University would be an outstanding campus to get your education. That being said, if you aren’t a fan of the cold weather, you probably won’t like it here very much. The winters in Iowa can be frigid and then some. Climate aside though, this place gets two thumbs up from me. Did I mention for some reason, I really liked their school logo too?