Sept. 8, 2014Vol. 45, Issue 1

New Student Center Offers Collaborative Workspace

AS Director of University Affairs Michael Pratt works in the bullpen in the new Wildcat Leadership Center, located in BMU 220.

New Student Center Offers Collaborative Workspace

Faculty, staff, and students back on campus this fall may have noticed some changes to the second floor of the Bell Memorial Union (BMU).

Formerly occupied by the Wildcat bookstore and buyback program, the majority of the floor has been remodeled into an open, collaborative learning space. The area is now home to Associated Students (AS) officers and staff, Student Life and Leadership (SLL), and other student leadership programs.

In use since mid-August, the aptly named Wildcat Leadership Center has already improved communication and coordination between those programs, said AS Government Affairs program coordinator Sharleen Krater.

“The students drove the process, because they wanted a student center,” she said. “But it also helps staff who are helping administer these programs. There is a lot of collaboration and congruency that goes on, and we wanted to make sure we were maximizing our efforts.”

At the north end of the space are the student government operations. Most of the 10 Associated Students officers used to occupy individual offices, but they now work at desks in a “bullpen” arrangement—an open workspace similar to a newsroom. A large multimodal meeting room and several smaller conference areas provide flexible space for meetings and group work.

AS officers plan activities for the fall semester in the new space.

AS officers plan activities for the fall semester in the new space.

Moving east in the center, visitors can find offices for SLL staff, as well as programs like Freshman Leadership Opportunity (FLO), AS Productions (formerly Union Label), the Wildcat Leadership Institute, and Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

In addition to several high-top tables, the center also houses a number of “touchdown spaces,” unassigned desks for students to work or study.

Krater said the space was remodeled at the request of groups like the AS, who were looking for ways to access staff and one another more readily.

“When we began designing the space, we went to San Francisco to see what’s happening in space design,” Krater said. “What we found is it’s all about collaboration and less about being separate.”

It’s also all about repurposing. For example, lockers formerly used by the Wildcat Store employees were brought up to the second floor for use by the student officers.

Funding for the remodel came from Student Union fees. “They [students] wanted light, life, and laughter. And they got it,” Kramer said.

A week before the start of fall classes, the still-unfinished center teemed with activity and conversation. Student officers huddled together around computers in the bullpen, while others met at high tables in the center of the room.

Comfortable seating provides a conversation area.

Comfortable seating provides a conversation area.

For AS Vice President of Facilities and Services Jovan Smith, the improvements in the new workspace were palpable.

“You already feel it,” Smith said. “The buzz, the life, the conversations ... The space really supports collaboration, openness, and student involvement.”

The Wildcat Leadership Center is located in BMU 220.

—Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications
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