Student Center gets students’ stamp of approval
Whether students are new to Spring Hill College, or lament the year trekking across campus to dine in the “pooleteria,” or recall the distinctive scent of the former 1960s-era campus center, they can all agree that the new student center is a welcomed gathering place for the Spring Hill community.
Demolition began in January 2009 on the old campus center, built in 1964. Over the course of the year, the College community witnessed the construction progress on the new student center, which was erected on the site of the old center.
In the meantime, students dined in the makeshift cafeteria, a platform built over the pool in the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center. The space affectionately – or perhaps begrudgingly – came to be called the “pooleteria.”
The U.S. Green Building Council awarded the student center Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver-level certification. Designed by The Architects Group (TAG), the project achieved LEED certification by using recycled building materials, recycling 95 percent of construction waste, reducing the facility’s energy needs by 14 percent, and installing efficient plumbing fixtures, among other initiatives. The building is the first LEED-certified multipurpose complex in Mobile, Ala.
The new student center opened for business in the summer of 2010. Student affairs, student involvement and campus ministry moved into their new office spaces; faculty and staff enjoyed their first meal in the new dining room.
And, in the fall, the College sprung to life again as the students returned to campus. A packed calendar of activities during “Weeks of Welcome” revolved around showcasing the new “living room” of the College.
“These events enabled students to take full advantage of some of the cool things that the student center has to offer,” said Cory Bronenkamp ’11 of St. Louis, student body president. “Whether it was the band that played at dinner or the Cloister social, students are for sure enjoying every aspect of the state-of-the-art building.”
In addition to housing offices, the student center features a 9,600-square-foot dining room, a food-court-style serving area where foods are prepared fresh and served on request, an expanded bookstore, a comfortable lounge, and wireless Internet availability throughout the facility. The revamped Cloister, with its pub-like atmosphere, is furnished with booths, couches, flat-screen televisions and a pool table. The center provides ample work and meeting space for student organizations, and the multifunctional LeBlanc Conference Room is available for rental to public groups.
Bronenkamp said students are more likely to attend events or get involved in activities that are located in the student center, because students truly enjoy spending time there. “For me, it’s a place to hang out and shoot a game of pool while enjoying some good food and entertainment. It’s finally a place where we can gather and have a genuinely good time,” he said. “What makes the Spring Hill experience so special is that we are such a small, tight-knit community. This new student center will contribute to that community atmosphere in ways that we’ve never seen before.”
Evan Yearwood ’12, a nursing major from Brownsburg, Ind., agrees. “It gives students a healthy and resourceful place to eat and socialize. The Cloister has already been a hub of community building,” Yearwood said. “You can walk into the Cloister at all hours of the day (and night) and you find students enjoying one another’s company in a safe and fun environment. It’s the perfect place for students to gather to watch the big game on a Saturday afternoon or to take that late-night study snack break.”
The objective of the student center is to connect students, faculty and staff to out-of-class learning and to foster social and leadership development. Yearwood has noticed that the new center attracts more faculty and staff to join the students for meals, illustrating the community-building aspect of the center.
“I have truly cherished the relationships that I have been able to form with the faculty of Spring Hill College,” he said. “Not many students at other schools can say that they have the opportunity to enjoy meals and socialize with their professors and even their university’s president on a daily basis. The new student center has allowed Spring Hill to grow closer as a community."
A freshman from New Orleans, Ainsley Messina ’14 said students take full advantage of the student center to socialize with one another. “The student center has been an awesome place for my friends and I to hang out,” said the elementary education major. “Our meals always turn into a two-hour ordeal once we’ve gone around the entire caf and hung out with everyone.”
Kevin Smith ’14 of Rocky River, Ohio said, “I thoroughly love the new building, and especially the fact that it is a certified green building is impressive.”
Smith, a communication arts and political science major, added that although he never experienced the old campus center on a daily basis, he remembers that during his campus visit, the building was an “eyesore.”
“To take it full circle,” he said, “I am now a Springhillian ambassador, and when I give tours to potential new students, the student center is one of the main focal points our campus has to offer."