Students gain more insight on new student center

By Molly Walsh, Campus Reporter

At a Dec. 4 forum, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim and members of Gensler architectural firm, the new student center’s designer, discussed plans for the new building with the campus community, including students who were critical of the project.

At the “Meet the Student Center” forum held at the Conaway Center in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building, Kim discussed the center’s benefits, and architects from Gensler presented a slideshow on the design and planned use of each floor in the center. At least 50 people from the Columbia community attended, including students.

“I hope and believe that this [student center] is going to be transformative,” Kim said. “I hope this is going to be the kind of experience for our students that because of a sense of place, will keep students here [at Columbia] more readily.”

The student center—expected to be completed in 2019—will increase engagement and collaboration between members of Columbia’s community, Kim said, while also more students to the college.

Brian Vitale, principal and design director from Gensler, said the new student center will have a large event space that can hold about 800 people and areas for eating, studying and working out.

The center is designed as an atrium and will allow students to interact with others inside the building while showing pedestrians what is happening inside the building, according to Vitale.

“The idea was not only to make this so individually centric, but rather share this with the larger student population [and] the city,” Vitale said. “The city gives you as much energy as you give the city.”

Students told Kim during the forum that more funding needs to go toward student resources, which have been reduced due to budget cuts, rather than a new student center.

Junior art and art history major Isabella Aimone told Kim at the forum that students’ opinions regarding the student center seem to go unheard.

“The perception of this building among many students is that you’re just building this new shiny thing to boost enrollment rates,” Aimone said. “You’re not really caring about the students you already have.”

 Kim responded by explaining the student center is being built primarily for the students who are enrolled at Columbia.

“I am thinking on a daily basis of what we can do to not just preserve but build the quality of the institution. It means that some things will necessarily go away,” Kim said. “Hopefully, it also means over time that new things will come into place.”