All historic appearances to the contrary, Creighton and UNO have much more in common than a hometown.
True, they were born 30 years apart and sit 30 blocks apart. Creighton University, with 8,000 students, was and is a private Catholic school. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, now a secular state school, is twice as large and was essentially born Protestant.
And yet their respective founders were determined to broaden access to higher education for all Omahans — missions in which their successors rightly claim significant successes.
In 2014, Creighton and UNO have legitimate claims to crown-jewel status in Omaha — bolstered by the universities’ significant facelifts over the past 20 years, nationally and internationally recognized academic programs and athletic departments that recently have leapt into higher levels of competition.
Both institutions have set ambitious enrollment goals over the next decade that would push Creighton’s total enrollment toward 10,000 and UNO’s to 20,000. Creighton leaders hope to parlay the university’s new Big East Conference membership into greater enrollment from Chicago and the East Coast, even as they expand their online academic footprint and build a nationwide network of partner schools.
UNO, for its part, plans to build a set of new athletic fields and an indoor arena to complement its still-new NCAA Division I status. University leaders also intend to keep adding residence halls, expanding fine-arts and telecommunications facilities and improving the high-technology resources and academic programs that helped spark UNO’s transformation from a relatively limited “commuter campus” within the University of Nebraska system.
But even as they relish their enhanced profiles, leaders at both universities vow never to abandon their parallel heritage as universities for Omaha — and for Nebraska. UNO’s culture has always stressed “being of the community as well as in the community,” said Senior Vice Chancellor B.J. Reed, a 32-year veteran faculty member.
“We’ve always been very committed to our home state, and we never want to give that up,” said Mary Chase, Creighton’s assistant provost for enrollment management. Regardless of the trends in higher-education costs, “our founders wanted us to provide (educational) access. And so do we.”