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Chesapeake College Opens Doors to State-of-the Art Student Center

Posted on Thursday, July 27, 2006


WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College´s Caroline Student Center, closed for more than two years as part of a $6 million renovation and expansion, reopened July 26 with a design that befits its name.

"The college took a student-centered approach in the redesign of this building," said Amy Childs, Chesapeake´s director of student life. "Student leadership was involved throughout the entire process and I really think we have a resulting building that we can all feel proud of, that says so much about Chesapeake´s commitment to students."

It doesn´t take long for the student-centered theme to take hold. The first floor features a dramatic expansion of student space, including a student lounge, game room, student computer terminals, and an office suite for the Student Government Association.

"The location of the SGA office at the front entrance is perfect because students will not be able to miss us when they enter the front door," said SGA President Heather Sterling. "The activities and services SGA provides for the students will be much more noticeable."

The SGA suite is centered around a conference room that includes both a conference table and individual work spaces for the SGA officers. There is also an office for the SGA president and a storage room.

"The space is a wonderful environment for the officers to meet and discuss issues and activities that are happening at the college," added Sterling. "SGA now has a great space to work in to accomplish all of the goals they aspire to achieve."

The game room features two 32-inch plasma televisions with an X-Box 360 game system. Tables in the game room include table-top chess and checkers and data lines line two walls.

"I recently toured the game room and was very impressed with the setup," said Sterling. "The space is cozy, yet, at the same time modern. I think that students will really enjoy spending their down time in this space. The room will consist of a variety of activities for the students. The room will also be a great place for students to socialize as well as learning to cooperate with each other."

A spacious, open student lounge features a 50-inch plasma television set and movable furniture that can be configured to suit student needs.

"I absolutely love the lounge because it has the feeling of home. This space is positively designed for students to put their feet up and just relax between classes," said Sterling. "I think students will feel Chesapeake College supports them beyond the classroom by providing theses spaces for them to enjoy and relax."

"I believe all of the student spaces really fulfill the vision of a student center as the ´living room´ of the campus," said Childs.

The centerpiece of the first floor is the expanded cafeteria and food services area. Thanks to the 10,000-square-foot addition – which increased the center´s square footage to over 35,000 square feet – the cafeteria can now accommodate 258 diners. Food services will feature a much-anticipated food court, which should be fully operational in mid-August.

"We´re going to have pizza, deli, grill and feature stations," said Bruce Forgrave, food service director for Sodexho´s Chesapeake College operation. "We plan to have weekly specials at all those stations."

Food Services has spent more than two years – the time it took to renovate the Caroline Center – operating out of a small Cyber Café in the college´s Learning Resource Center, unable to offer hot meals due to the kitchen restrictions in that building. The Cyber Café will revert to its prior mission – providing snacks along with hot and cold beverage service – when the Caroline Center cafeteria comes back on line in time for the fall semester.

"We´ve been working under some highly modified conditions," said Forgrave. "Doug Gray, Pat Cheek and the entire library staff have been wonderful during this two-year period. They worked with us and we worked with them to keep food services going during the renovation. It´s been a tough two years, but it´s all going to be worth it now that we have a state-of-the-art facility in the renovated Caroline Center."

Kate Kayhoe, Sodexho´s catering supervisor, is also excited about expanded capabilities for catering.

"The old cafeteria would seat 90 for sit-down meals. Now we´ll have the capability of serving almost three times that number," said Kayhoe.

"The dining area is simply fabulous; the variety of the space allows one to share a quiet meal with another, or gather in small groups in a very sophisticated setting," said Childs. "The potential for programming there is tremendous and Student Life expects to utilize it for a full variety of events, including concerts, coffee houses, socials, dances, lectures, and exhibits."

"The cafeteria is going to be a terrific area for social events," said Sterling. "There is a stage purchased that will be used for various entertainment. There is plenty of room for large-group gatherings. I feel students will want to congregate in this area because the environment is inviting. One of the most important things everybody is looking forward to is all the great food!"

Like food services, the Chesapeake College Bookstore spent more than two years having to "make-due" with a less-than-optimal site during the Caroline Center renovation. The Bookstore spent 27 months on the other side of campus in the Manufacturing Training Center, and Bookstore Manager Shannon Wyble said she and her staff are "definitely ecstatic to be back where we belong in the center of campus."

"We were just completely out of the loop – out of the way for students – but we made it work," said Wyble, whose bookstore was the first service of the Caroline Center to open for business in early June.

The bookstore staff´s patience was rewarded – its space grew from 800 square feet in the old Caroline Center to 2,264 square feet in the renovated building. Wyble said the space increase will allow the bookstore to be more responsive to student needs.

"We can host events – like the Nursing Night we´ll be having soon – carry trade books, reference books, and have greater organization of our textbooks," said Wyble. "The expansion has also allowed us to add a cards section and to better display merchandise."

The second floor is a mix of student and academic space. A student clubs suite includes offices for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, the UHURU multicultural student union and two additional club office spaces, all opening into a common conference area that features a built-in LCD projector and screen. There is also a second-floor seminar room with 12-seat table and similar conferencing technology, and a Peer Associate Room.

"The concept for the club spaces was to create a microcosm of Chesapeake´s Board Room, so that student leadership would be afforded a space that was technically advanced and professionally furnished as they develop as our future leaders," said Childs. "The common conference area lends itself to a cooperative work environment, which is very important in developing a team approach to problem-solving, a highly valued skill in today´s marketplace."

"I was impressed the most by the club area," said Sterling. "This space is phenomenal and shows just how much Chesapeake College encourages students to become involved in activities outside the classroom. The clubs will finally be in one area where they will be able to communicate and work together to provide activities and guidance for all of the students on campus."

Dana Bowser, UHURU´s advisor and the college´s director of multicultural affairs, said the impressive club space should lead to more student involvement.

"Our students will have a place to call their own now," Bowser said. "I expect to see more student involvement now in UHURU and other campus clubs. This building will boost interest in student activities."

The second-floor academic space includes both an art suite and a music suite. The art suite is comprised of a photo lab, prep area and storage area, all opening into a classroom space featuring plenty of natural light. The music suite includes three studios, each with a piano, and a music lab with a piano and organ, all opening into a wood-floored classroom.

Two second-floor faculty suites house English and communications faculty members and have spaces for adjunct faculty. Each suite features five individual offices for full-time faculty opening into an area dedicated to housing adjunct faculty members. There are also two general-use classrooms – a 24-seat room and a 16-seat room – on the second floor.

The second floor is also home to a Student Services suite that houses Student Life and Career Services, with a Career Services practicum room right off the suite. The practicum room can be used for one-on-one assistance in resume writing, interviewing, and other career skills.

Guido DeLuca, the college´s director of career planning and job development, said students will have a variety of career tools at their fingertips. Prospective employers will also benefit from the new space.

"For the first time, we´ll have a private space for employers to interview students right here on campus," DeLuca said. "Previously, students would meet with employers in a corner of the cafeteria or library. That was difficult for everyone. Now those interviews will be conducted in a private, professional atmosphere."

The first students who toured the building on Wednesday said they were impressed with the new student center.

"I think all of us will enjoy having such comfortable spaces to socialize, work on projects or even just relax," said student Camilla Stiebel of Stevensville. "I like that so many things will be happening in this building at once. I could meet with a professor, check job listings, have lunch, and attend a club meeting all in the same place."


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