Plans to transform the campus, new programs and activities and incentives for COVID shots were among the items top University of Texas officials spoke to students about during Pizza with the President Tuesday.

The question-and-answer session, hosted by the Student Government Association, was held just outside the Student Activity Center.

President of UTPB Sandra Woodley, center, talks with Reagan Hudson, left, and Becky Spurlock, right, before the start of a Pizza with the President event hosted by the UTPB Student Government Association Tuesday afternoon at the UTPB Student Activity Center. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

President Sandra Woodley said the university is planning to improve the quality of its space.

“The (place) that we’re in right now is going to be completely redesigned,” Woodley said.

One element will be a one-ton Falcon.

“She’s gorgeous. That will be in the middle of this quad. She’s actually on a ship right now coming from Spain where she was,” Woodley said.

The falcon was gifted by an anonymous donor to the university, Chief of Staff/Executive Director of Communication Tatum Hubbard said.

Woodley said there would be a contest to name the falcon.

“… We’re going to redo all of the spaces here around the quad,” Woodley said. “That’s part of what we call our campus transformation plan. Pretty soon, you will see under the Mesa deck, a lot of really great outdoor study furniture. It’s going to be a lot of fun, bright color furniture for you to be able to hang out outside. It’ll have plug-ins so that you can do that. The library building across from here we have the money to completely renovate the first floor of the library,” Woodley added.

The outdoor furnishings were funded through HEERF funding to support outdoor learning and living as a preventative strategy against COVID. HEERF stands for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and it is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Library renovations and projects are funded through support from Odessa Development Corporation, Permanent University Fund (PUF) and Blackstone Launchpad.

Part of the campus transformation will also include entrances and signage.

“We’ve got those tombstones that kind of halfway show you where you’re supposed to go. That’s going to get a full facelift and upgrade,” she added.

The Stragglers, the bronze cattle at 42nd and JBS Parkway, will be moved back and that corner will be a new plaza for the community and the students. The plaza will include a memorial to the victims of the Aug. 29, 2019, mass shooting.

“… It’s called Bright Stars Memorial. Light will emanate from the cylinder that will go out on there, but we will also open up that space,” Woodley said.

She added that UTPB wants the students to be part of the design of the plaza, quad, walking paths and entrances.

Woodley noted that the No. 1 goal is to make sure students get a University of Texas education and their academics are strong.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Leadership Becky Spurlock answers a student’s question during a questions and answers panel during the UTPB Student Government Association’s Pizza with the President event Tuesday afternoon at the UTPB Student Activity Center. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Both Woodley and Vice President for Student Affairs and Leadership Becky Spurlock said they will be glad to hear student ideas on how to improve the campus. Spurlock said she’s there to listen if things are going wrong, as well.

“… This fall should be a really good one. We’re really excited to kick off our new athletic schedule. We’ve got our first home football game coming up Friday, Sept. 3. … It’s going to be here on campus, so we’re excited about that,” Spurlock said.

She noted that Welcome Week is still going on and there was a COVID vaccine clinic later in the afternoon Tuesday.

Spurlock also stressed the importance of staying on track academically.

She said the Student Success Center is offering more help and tutoring.

“We’ve got some student peer leaders who are going to be embedded in some classes to provide one-on-one and group support for academic areas. We’re going to be rolling out a program called Making the Grade. So, during COVID you didn’t do so well in a class and you want the opportunity to retake that class, we’re going to help you do that financially. We’ll be announcing that program to the students that are eligible this week,” Spurlock said.

Registered Nurse Emmanuel Wekesa administers the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to UTPB student Pedro Chavez during a vaccination clinic held in partnership with Midland Memorial Hospital Tuesday afternoon at the UTPB Student Activity Center. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

A Student Success Hotline has been started. The number is 432-552-4035, so if you don’t know where to go, there are people who will answer the phone until 8 p.m. during the week.

“And then we’ll get back to you to help you with whatever you need. My office is up on the fourth floor. I’m around the corner from Dr. Woodley, but you’ll see me, and of course, Dean (of Student Services Corey) Benson, out and about on campus,” she said.

She told those attending to never be afraid to stop her, ask questions and tell her what’s on their minds.

Spurlock said they are almost giddy to have students back on campus, but at the same time she’s worried because the hospitals are filling up with COVID cases.

“… COVID continues to be a significant issue in our community and our population’s under vaccinated. So … if you have questions about … concerns about being vaccinated and you want to connect with me, I can connect you to a medical practitioner and you can have a confidential conversation to get your questions answered, if that would help you make your decision,” Spurlock said.

She added that there is a link on the university’s vaccine incentive webpage.

“If you haven’t seen that, we are incentivizing people to get vaccines,” Spurlock said.

The grand prize is one semester of tuition and fees at UTPB. The drawing is Oct. 6.

Details are listed at

“..Please get vaccinated. Take care of yourself and your friends,” Spurlock said.

Spurlock said the university is going to open the Center for Inclusion and Belonging on the second floor of the Student Activity Center.

“We’re shooting to have our grand opening in the spring,” she said.

Woodley said plans are to upgrade technology around UTPB.

“We’re also completing or maybe already have completed extra WiFi in our quad and in our buildings to make it very easy for you to connect and a better strength. …,” Woodley said.