The lunch rush has hit Brady Commons and with it a sense of mildly contained chaos. People are everywhere: sitting, standing, calling to friends and laughing. The tables are full, a few overloaded with extra chairs so that large groups can sit together. Strangers share tables just to get a place to sit and eat.
Long lines snake through the food court — past Pizza Hut, Burger King, Chick-fil-A and Sunshine Sushi — as people wait for their turn to pay, hands full of foods ranging from California rolls to cheeseburgers. The aroma of fries and pizza wafts into the main dining area.
This is where MU students come — to buy textbooks, shop for gifts, grab lunch, make copies, meet friends, study, get involved with student organizations or just hang out. Outside of the classroom, this is what being a college student is all about.
“It’s the center, the hub of campus,” said Michelle Mazza Froese, public relations manager for student auxiliary services, which is in the commons. “But it can be better.”
Better will probably mean bigger. Brady is set to expand if the project can get past the funding stage. Matt Sokoloff, a member of the Brady expansion project student communication committee, said what is most needed in Brady is “casual space” for students. He said it is overcrowded at lunchtime, and it’s hard to find space to study with groups.
“It’s like you have a house and you have to move all your furniture around so you can have people over,” Sokoloff said. “That’s what we’re continuously having to do at Brady — adjust and shift.”
A master plan for an expansion project was approved in September 2003, Froese said, but the project began to take on life three or four years before that. The project was student-driven in terms of needing more space, Froese said. An architect and design firm were selected in February.
Now the Brady expansion project is moving into the funding stage, Froese said. She said about a third of the funds will come from campus dining services and University Bookstore reserve funds. She said a donor would help, but if that doesn’t happen, students would be asked if they would support a fee increase. An electronic “fee tolerance” survey of about 5,000 students is planned for September.
Eat, drink, study
On a recent June afternoon, Caffé Fresco, the coffee shop next door to the food court, has a line of its own. Marshonn Lee, who has worked at the cafe for 18 months, estimated that 1,200 to 1,400 students drop by every day in the fall and winter semesters.
The lunch rush is also apparent in the University Bookstore. By the entrance, customer service and UMB Bank awaits patrons. The line for the ATM is three-people deep as one student grabs his cash and goes into Corner Copia, convenience store. All five computers at the hub are occupied, and several customers float around the fiction section. In the back corner of the bookstore, the I.D. card office takes pictures of newly enrolled students.
Froese, once an MU student, said that Brady Commons is important to the MU campus. Finished in 1963 for a campus of 15,000 students, it is the center for student services and a place for socialization.
Now MU has about 26,000 students, and Froese said they should know that Brady Commons is “their building.”
Brady Commons isn’t always as busy as it is at lunch time. Other times of day there are moments to sit alone and relax, possibly by the windows near the television in the corner of the eating area. This is where Eyob Tilahun, an incoming freshman taking classes over the summer, is spending his late morning, finishing a snack and watching golf on the big screen.
In the afternoon, it is not uncommon to see students studying in this area. Rachel and Kristin Lee come to Brady Commons often to study together during the summer.
Rachel Lee, a junior geology and anthropology major, said her favorite thing to do is spend time in the bookstore, reading “actual books” as opposed to textbooks. She also has experienced the video game Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade downstairs and has gone bowling. To her, Brady is a great place to meet her friends.
“Everyone comes here,” she said.
Relax, play, get involved
Although a huge part of Brady Commons is the eating area, there’s even more to do downstairs. In the middle of the basement, visible from the staircase, is another area to sit with couches arranged in circles. There is a student taking a nap, a couple eating lunch and a study group discussing class work.
To the left is T.A. Brady’s, a recreational area. Music and sounds from the arcade create background noise for the seating area. The scent of fresh bread from Subway hangs in the air, and pins crash in the nearby bowling alley.
Close to Subway, A Matter of Style Hair Salon has its doors open to the public. Nichole Stegmaier, a hairstylist for 10 years, said she sees mostly students, especially since it’s busier downstairs.
Pablo Bueno Mendoza, who as director of the office of multicultural affairs has been working out of an office in Brady Commons since 1998, said he has seen a change in the arcade games. “It used to be sword games, and now it’s DDR,” Mendoza said.
He also said that Brady Commons is important to MU because it’s centrally located and has many things students can do.
The Center for Student Involvement in A022 Brady houses more than 30 organizations. Kathy Murray, assistant director for student life, said A022 Brady practically has a life of its own.
“Brady is packed to the rim with support services,” she said. “We are the spirit of Brady.”
Murray said that the Center for Student Involvement is a “marvelous place to start” for new students who are looking for a way to get involved.
Her advice to students: Do not sit in your room; get involved. Joan Masters, coordinator of Missouri Partners in Prevention, said that Brady Commons has “niches for different people.” She said it’s a place students can gather to study or to join student organizations.
“Always look for something, because it’s here,” Masters said.