by Susan O’Neill
Students visiting the new Student Center’s CafÃ© and Coffee Bar and using its other amenities on Monday morning agreed that the new building is a definite plus for students. Whether they were meeting friends between classes, accessing the WiFi or the bank of computers, the students said the new center is a welcome addition to campus life.
Waubonsee students and moms, Jennifer Kenneavy and Amy Mabrey, dropped their young daughters off at the Waubonsee Magnet Place Pre-school at 9 a.m. on Monday and stopped in at the new CafÃ© and Coffee Bar until their 10 a.m. classes.
Kenneavy, a North Aurora resident who is studying sociology at Waubonsee, said she usually comes to the student center to have coffee and read and catch up with homework before class.
Mabrey, an Oswego resident who is taking the basic science classes required for a nursing degree, typed on her laptop.
â€œI’m typing something to e-mail to my teacher,â€ she said. â€œI don’t even have to print it out.â€
The entire building is Wi-Fi-accessible, allowing students to access the Internet and their e-mail from anywhere.
The two women used to go to the old student center in the Dickson building before this one was built last year. They both said the new building, completed in time for the new semester, is much better.
â€œThe quality of the food is so much better,â€ Kenneavy said. â€œThey use fresh ingredients and the coffee is good.â€
Situated in the center of campus, the building has numerous windows that look out onto a wooded area of mature oak trees.
Batavia resident Jason Castillo, who is working on two majors, comes to campus every day. Castillo said the new Student Center is very open and bright. He also likes the color scheme.
Kimberly Marzullo travels from Leland to campus on Mondays and Wednesdays to take the first two years of general requirements toward a teaching degree. She sits at one of the computers in the lobby available to students.
She spends the hour she has between classes catching up with friends and family members on Facebook. She has a computer at home, but said these are so convenient.
When she is not using a computer, she sits in the lounge and does homework between classes. She said it is calm and quiet there.
â€œThis (center) makes you feel like you’re really at a college,â€ she said.
These comments reflect much of what Waubonsee Community College President Dr. Christine Sobek, other school officials and involved students hoped to accomplish with the new center. Sobek presided over a party celebrating the grand opening of the center on Friday.
Designing the space took approximately seven months, according to Dr. Deborah Lovingood, executive vice president of educational affairs and chief learning officer.
â€œIt was a successful and positive experience,â€ said Lovingood. â€œWe ended up with a beautiful and inspirational design that we hope will motivate students to achieve greatness.â€
The 58,000-square-foot, $17 million building located in the middle of campus was also designed to be the figurative heart of the campus. The new building provided the opportunity to house under one roof all of the most important student-centered activities and services.
Several of the service departments’ staff said they have already experienced an increase in traffic since the move. Career Services manager Teri Cullen said the number of people her department has seen has doubled since December.
Students used to have to go to three buildings on opposite ends of the campus to access the services they currently find in the new building.
The â€œone-stop-shoppingâ€ design of the new building includes a gathering spot for students to meet and hang out, as well as a place to add a class, obtain career counseling, pay a bill, join a club or apply for financial aid.
The student center is the last of four buildings recently added to the campus as part of the school’s 2020 college master plan. During the past three years, the college has opened a campus operations building and a new 46,590 square-foot science building with state-of-the-art technology, as well as a 56,000-square-foot academic and professional center.
Funding from two successful college referendums in 2002 and 2003 supported the construction of the new buildings and made implementation of the plan possible.
Waubonsee Community College is Illinois’ second fastest-growing community college, Sobek said. With that growth, the college has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of full-time students, as well as the number of traditional age students. Sobek said these students are looking for a more engaged student experience and more student activities.
Having everything they need in one place will allow new students to hit the ground running, she said.
â€œWe hope it will be a vibrant hub for student life for many years to come,â€ Sobek said.
Photo: Waubonsee Community College unveiled its new 58,000-square-foot Student Center Friday at the collegeâ€™s Sugar Grove Campus. In addition to being a one-stop shop for students with a cafe, coffee bar, computer workstations and free wireless Internet, the building also houses the collegeâ€™s admissions, registration, financial aid, counseling, and other core student-service departments. Photo by Mary Herra