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Trustees discuss location for new student center

By Heather Newton
On February 12, 2008

With the addition of a new student center, Miami University's campus could see the loss of three of the university's buildings-Culler, Gaskill and Rowan halls.

The board of trustees discussed Feb. 8 the tentative site for the university's new Bicentennial Student Center and provided general ideas and layout of spaces that might be included.

Step by step, Miami is getting closer to making final plans for the approximately 200,000-square-foot facility, as compared to the existing 125,000-square-foot Shriver Center.

Dean of Students Susan Mosley-Howard began by stressing the main focus for this new building.

"This student center is for the Miami student," Mosley-Howard said. "It's truly going to be the learning, living, laboratory that we need."

The desire for a new student center has been a long time coming, as the need for a new student center was expressed about seven years ago by David Doyle, the 2001-02 student body president.

"The Shriver Center does not serve the needs of the students, and it is (my) hope that a new student union will be considered as a part of the (first in) 2009 initiatives," said Doyle in the Dec. 7, 2001 Associated Student Government (ASG) meeting minutes.

It was at the 2007 February board of trustees meeting where it was decided that $250,000 would go toward a feasibility study. This study allowed a 14-member committee do surveys and see what students and faculty felt was the most needed and desired in the new building.

This money also went toward visiting other schools-including University of Vermont, University of Michigan, Bowling Green University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute-to see what their student centers had to offer.

Miami University Architect Robert Keller gave a detailed presentation during the board of trustees meeting to show how the tentative location is almost exactly in the center of all activities.

Board of Trustees Chair Richard Smucker gave his personal opinion of the location in the meeting.

"Personally, the location is fabulous," Smucker said.

Brailsford and Dunlavey was the architectural firm the university used to conduct a survey to grasp what students desired in a new student center. Approximately 2,000 students (21 percent of the campus) took the online survey.

Keller's presentation showed a general layout of the student center based on the desires expressed in the survey. The spaces include a larger café with more space, organization, engagement and services spaces. It also included entertainment and recreation space, one of the largest being a 600-seat theater with a balcony level. Mosley-Howard commented on how this theater could be used for multiple purposes.

She explained not only could this theater be used for nightlife and entertainment, but it could also be used for the beginning of orientation presentations.

There are currently 350 student organizations on campus and there could be more space for these organizations in the building as well, Keller said.

"We really feel that (the student center) can bring a lot of energy to the campus," Keller said.

The board also noted that they do not plan to tear down the Shriver Center.

According to Keller, the Shriver Center was used for the entire university but the new student center will focus on the student body.

"The Shriver Center will still play a very large role as a university center as compared to a student center," Keller said.

Stephen Snyder, executive assistant to the president, told a journalism class last week that Shriver will still be used, majority which for office space.

Miami's President David Hodge explained some ideas for Shriver at the board meeting, one of which included the book store remaining in Shriver.

"The biggest issue is the book store," Hodge said.

He said that an idea is to possibly double or triple the size of the Miami University Bookstore and leave it in Shriver Center.

One remaining question is the cost factor of the new student center building.

A year ago that Hodge thought it would cost around $30 million, then a few months ago went to around $50 million. Now the student center is projected to cost between $70-80 million, according to Snyder at the journalism class meeting.

Hodge has said in a previous interview that most of the funding will come from private donations, which could also determine the name of the currently un-dedicated building.

"The April board meeting will cover the finances of the student center," Hodge said.

Mosley-Howard compared the new student center to the Phi Delt gates.

"Just as the Phi Delt gates serve as a gateway to the campus, the student center will serve as a gateway to the heart of the university," she said.

Mosley-Howard also explained what the committee hopes the new student center will accomplish for the campus.

"Miami's first student center can become a home for engagement, a family room-the heartbeat of campus," Mosley-Howard said.

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