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SEAL binds student orgs together

By Samantha Wargolet
On December 6, 2013

The Armstrong Student Center (ASC), due to open in January, has much more to offer than new dining and study space. The ASC will act as the hub for all Miami student organizations, and the new Center for Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL) will offer student organizations a central location on campus within Armstrong, according to Director of the ASC Katie Wilson.

The idea behind the SEAL, Wilson said, is to create a special place where student organizations can come together and find new ways to collaborate, a place where Miami can capitalize on the energy student organizations bring to the campus.

"We used to have a concentration base of student organizations in the bottom of MacMillan and some offices in Shriver, but now there will be a central place for them all to be located," Wilson said.

While Shriver was built for the number and needs of students in 1957, today's students have different needs, and ASC is going to meet them, Wilson said. Student organizations will no longer use the offices in MacMillan and Shriver. Instead, they will migrate to the 12,500 square feet of office space on the second floor of the ASC.

The SEAL space will be different from other areas on campus.

"There is a lot more public space," Wilson said. "It's hard to imagine, because we are used to having everything done behind closed doors."

Student organizations have been assigned space within the SEAL through a committee-reviewed application process. A rubric was used to determine if organizations would receive shared offices or desk space.

Miller worked with Wilson to select the student center board of directors for Armstrong.

"Dr. Wilson and I reviewed the applications and narrowed it down from 50 applications to 15 students to join the Student Center Board of Directors," Miller said.

From this board, the SEAL committee was created. This committee determined where all the student organizations would be located.

"They received applications from student organizations, and decided which organizations needed the space," Miller said.

Student Body Vice President Courtney Bernard serves as the Vice Chair of the Student Center Board of Directors and sits on the SEAL committee.

"We designed the application process for student organizations who wanted space in the Armstrong Student Center," Bernard said. "We kind of mapped out and formulated clusters that we envisioned within the office and desk space.

The SEAL committee is filled with a diverse group of students, and throughout the application process there was always a representative from Student Activities, ASG and the Student Center Board of Directors present, Bernard said.

Now the space is assigned, the SEAL committee met with leaders in all the organizations the week after Thanksgiving break to prepare them for the transition to ASC, Bernard said.

Blaire Mikesell, a member of Miami Activities and Programming (MAP), works on the arts, culture and entertainment board.

"I think that the Armstrong Student Center will allow us to attract more exciting entertainment acts because of the new space in the auditorium and ballroom," Mikesell said. "The spaces are nicer and bigger than what we have now, I think people will want to come enjoy it."

The older facilities cannot compare to the ASC, Mikesell said.

"It's a big improvement over Shriver and will accommodate Miami as we grow as a school. I'm really excited to get inside and start using it," Mikesell said.

One of the most talked-about aspects of the SEAL area is the idea of collaboration between student organizations, and the ASG sees this potential.

"We want to be innovative, creative and collaborative," Miller said. "Its not something we've seen or experienced before at Miami; it would be great to see student orgs come together in new ways to create new opportunity for Miami students."

Sophomore Kevin Krumpak is another excited student and thinks the space will improve the way ASG runs.

"As a senator in the Associated Student Government, it's really exciting for us to have the opportunity to be more visible to the students so that we can be more representative of them," Krumpak said. "It's what our organization is supposed to be doing in the first place, so Armstrong is really going to help."

According to Bernard, the hope is that students are out and about, utilizing the open area within ASC.

"Having everyone in one space is something that has never happened on this campus, and it will help with cross communication." Bernard said.

In addition, ASC will help encourage students to go to on-campus events with advertising and reaching out to individual students.

"It's an amazing concept we've never had before, not dedicated to just academics, but dedicated to the Miami experience," Bernard said. "That's the goal."

There are also many rooms that will be available to reserve, whether or not a student is involved in an organization.

"What I am really motivated about is that Armstrong is definitely a place for all students to use," Amy Corron, a graduate student who works in the office of student activities, said.

Corron serves as the co-chair for the SEAL committee.

"It's really great to have such a large space dedicated to student organizations," Corron said. "The diversity on Miami's campus will be represented within the home that is for all students. I view Armstrong as a student hub for all students."

The Armstrong Student Center will be officially dedicated at 2 p.m., Feb. 7, 2014, with a special event welcoming the Miami community and the more than 10,000 alumni and friends who supported the effort.

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