When classes started Monday at Columbia College, everyone seemed energized about something, but the hub of activity was inside the new commons area.
“I’m excited to see how this building is going to change the culture of our campus,” said Faye Burchard, dean of Campus Life. “The students will have more interaction between themselves and with the faculty.”
The Atkins-Holman Student Commons is a $4.1 million, 24,000-square-foot addition to the campus. It centralizes areas for student life, including a café, the college’s bookstore, meeting rooms and career services. It also provides covered paths to five buildings on campus.
Sophomore Jill Dudley got a first-hand look at the construction. During the summer, Dudley was in training to become a community consultant. Consultants, supervised by faculty, teach a class designed to help freshmen adjust to the campus and to college life.
“I hope the freshmen get really involved and have the sense of our continuing, open community,” Dudley said.
Dudley is one of many students who balance classes with other work. Sarah Steeno, a senior biology major, is taking only one class this semester — her last one before graduation — but she also works at the bookstore full time.
This is Steeno’s third year at the bookstore, and she is thrilled about the new space in the commons.
“The students absolutely love it,” Steeno said. “They say it looks like a real bookstore.”
She is also excited to see how the commons helps all of Columbia College’s students.
“I definitely think it will be a benefit — the buildings are connected, it’s a centralized location for everything, and it’s open later, which is great for the evening students,” Steeno said.
The evening program is one of five at Columbia College in which students can enroll. In addition to standard daytime undergraduate and graduate studies, the school accommodates nontraditional students in its evening, online and Extended Studies Division courses.
Enrollment in all five areas is up this year, which delights administrators. Part of this comes from the addition of the online program in fall 2001.
All students now have a new place to connect. Although the commons building is not quite complete, construction workers are busy trying to finish it in the next few weeks. Tim Nowlan, who works for Brady Glass, has been installing automatic door openers for the past few days.
“We’re close. Everything is rush, rush, rush,” Nowlan said.
While the students are eager to see the commons finished, they’re grateful to have it in any form.
“It brings a lot of oomph to the campus,” Dudley said.