New student center to offer inclusive spaces, resources and café
As part of an on-going initiative to foster student engagement, provide inclusive spaces and promote continued academic success among its students, Kirkwood Community College administrators stated the opening of its new student center this fall will create an environment that merges both social and academic shortfalls that the college has identified and hopes to address.
The new Iowa Hall, now in the final stages of its two-year construction process, will serve as the main hub for the college – making many of its student services and resources easily accessible in one central location – a decision the college believes will reshape the entire student experience, said Jon Buse, vice president of Student Services.
The $32-million project designed by OPN architects, a local architectural firm, and Workshop Architects of Milwaukee, that specifically works with colleges to design student spaces, will be fully open this fall, and includes a new and improved dining hall, meeting rooms, lounging space, a coffee bar and equity spaces, as well as services provided by the Dean of Students, the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid and Global Learning.
After a long-awaited period, some students are eager to explore the facilities’ multi-functional offerings. “I was excited to find out there was going to be a prayer room,” said Gehad Mahmoud, an early childhood education major from Egypt. With such a diverse student body population, the college found it important to offer spaces that provide freedom of religious expression and other forms of inclusion.
Buse said the student-centered facility, which is meant to be multi-functional, evolved through “a very broad collaborative process” of administrators working cohesively “seeking a desire to create a space for students to call their own” after listening to some of their concerns. These include a need for additional space on campus to study beyond the library, meal options and, most notably, equity and inclusion spaces. This includes lounges specifically dedicated for students who are veterans, multi-cultural students and those of the LGBTQ+ community.
In the past year, the college has made significant efforts to increase their diversity and inclusion initiatives through on-going campus-wide discourse as well as the hiring of four new equity and student success coaches, and the development of a DEI faculty fellows team in the fall of 2021, whose mission is to provide individual support to faculty, departments and programs in their diversity, ethnicity and social justice efforts.
Monica Davis, senior director of Facilities at Kirkwood said that one of the main functions of the center is to provide student interaction, engagement and fostering of relationships that wouldn’t necessarily occur.
But most importantly, Davis said the college hopes to create stronger relationships between students, faculty and staff.