By Valerie Bustamante
LOGOS FEATURES EDITOR
Get a good look at Marian Hall Student Center because it’s going down this summer.
In its place, an estimated $29 million, state-of-the-art, 120,000-square-foot, three-and-a-half story Student Engagement Center will rise and open at some point in 2017.
“It (the new center) had been an idea for quite some time now,” said Dr. David Jurenovich, vice president for enrollment management and student services. “When I came in 1988, Marian Hall was the all-around place for students. There have been small modifications done in the early 1990s and those included expanding the cafeteria, and the decking.
“Five years ago though we made the decision on two things we needed to work on: Marian Hall and the Fine Arts Building. The Fine Arts Building is one of the last buildings in the academic area that needed to be redone. Now our focus is on Marian Hall, because with our growing campus we have definitely outgrown it, especially in the cafeteria.”
With an enrollment rate that went up 3.6 percent last fall, totaling 9,940 students, the expansion of Marian Hall has become a necessity.
In late May, “pre-construction” will begin and by early June the current building will start coming down. While the current building is being demolished and the new one built, its current occupants will be temporarily moved to various locations.
The Office of Campus Life and Student Government Association will move to the first floor of Dubuis Hall. The lounge in Dubuis will become the temporary student lounge during the construction process. Jurenovich stressed a barrier will be created so the temporary student lounge does not clash with students who live in the residence hall.
In the Dubuis foyer, there will be a space for a “grab and go” food bar so as students are between classes they can catch a quick snack and receive proper accommodations, Jurenovich said.
“We are working with Sodexo (the catering service) so that on different days of the week we can have them host different food events to accommodate the students and faculty,” Jurenovich said. “Some days for example they would serve Mexican food and others foods such as barbecue or hot dogs.”
As for the cafeteria, Sodexo will temporarily serve the community in the Dr. Burton E. Grossman International Conference Center Building.
“The university is currently renovating the first floor of ICC, where Café 1881 used to be, converting it into a temporary Marian Hall if you will,” Sodexo General Manager Murat Bora said. “The project is scheduled to be completed in early June and will serve as the main dining venue for our campus until the new student center is built.”
ELS Language Center, located below the current cafeteria, is expected to move temporarily to an area between “the hill” and Sullivan baseball field. The ELS school has been occupying space that formerly served as the bookstore before it moved to the fourth floor of the McCombs Center when that residence hall was built.
“There is a space available called the baseball infield patch that the baseball team has used for some time and this will became an area we will do construction (on) so that the ELS Language Center can be temporarily moved,” Jurenovich said.
The current shuttle stop near Marian Hall will be changed, too. The new stop possibly could be near President Lou Agnese Jr.’s office in the Development Complex near the bridge over the San Antonio River or in front of Brackenridge Villa.
The projected cost of the project could go up when it is time to furnish the actual building that is being designed for student life.
“The concept was to build a place where students could house their activities,” said Mike McChesney of McChesney/Blanco Architecture. “This will be the major organ of student life.”
McChesney and UIW officials visited other student centers in South Texas to get ideas for the Student Engagement Center. Visits were made to the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University at College Station and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.
The new building will take up the same land that Marian Hall sits on since there is limited space on campus for further expansion. The first floor of the new center will house the cafeteria on the right and the bookstore on the left. The new cafeteria will triple in size with space for 650.
There will also be various spaces where students can lounge and eat while they study.
A new banquet hall will be built that can accommodate 300-400 people. There will also be bleachers built in that can be pushed up and put away. On the same floor will be conference rooms for faculty and organizations that can hold 212 people.
The SGA, Campus Activities Board and Campus Life will still be located in the student center when it is built, but there will also be other additions such as Veterans Affairs, Counseling, Health Services, and pharmaceutical services.
Down in the sub-triennial level, a casual food service/pub will be added in. It will be similar to Java on the Hill on the fourth floor of McCombs that serves alcoholic beverages for people of legal age. The post office and print shop also will be moved down there.
Something else university officials want to add into the building is a small kiosk, where students can access things such as registration.
“We’ve grown to such a vibrant campus, but the only thing we have been missing is a space dedicated to the students,” Jurenovich said.
“We’ve been working on this for almost a year and half as a large committee with people such as (Dr.) Renee Moore (dean of campus life); Paul Ayala (director of University Events and Special Programs), Michelle Wilk (outgoing SGA president), Stephen Lucke (former SGA president), the Alumni Association, and even Mike Hood (director of Printing Services and Graphic Design) from the branding office
“It’s truly a dream come true for me. When I first started, this was such a little campus and it has been faced with such a tremendous growth. I mean we’re now even a Division 1 school. It’s just great for the students. This student center was the one piece we were missing.”