Plans for Eastern’s new student center are finally gaining speed! It has been eight years in the making, and big steps are being been taken to get construction underway. We asked Bettie Ann Brigham, Vice President of Student Development, what students should expect from Eastern’s newest addition.
“These sort of things are planned six to eight years in advance,” Brigham said. During this time, different students and alumni, including Student Government representatives, have contributed greatly to the design process.
The building’s main feature will be a new Dining Commons. So far, designs include larger kitchens and maybe even a sushi bar. The Dining Commons will double as a multipurpose room with a stage. There will also be a balcony, seating between 80 and 100 people.
Along with the new dining arrangements, students can look forward to lounge areas, game rooms, study rooms, a coffee bar with high-top tables and space for clubs and offices. All of the offices and centers currently in Walton will be moved to the student center.
An exciting feature to the new student center will be a ‘green’ roof, which will be visible from the third floor. The roof will be made of grass, allowing it to absorb water, reflect heat, use up carbon and expel oxygen. Bringham seemed excited about the plan, describing it as “a really environmentally friendly roofing system.”
The building will be located on what is currently the softball field and part of path to Sparrowk Hall. Of course, that begs the question of where Eastern’s softball team will go.
“We are looking for a field for the softball team that is readily
accessible and close by,” said Brigham.
As for Walton, the only centers that will stay put are Jammin’ Java and the Mail Center. Walton will then be turned into a building for the Arts, including theater, dance and music. The Dining Commons itself will become a dance studio and a practice room for the University Choir and Band.
Students will not see their tuition increase to account for the new building. Financing for the center will bedrawn from donations and fund-raising, Sodexo itself among the key contributors.
Currently, Brigham is looking for a team of students to form an active fund-raising group, that will promote the building and tell people why they should invest in Eastern. Even more opportunities for student involvement will be available in the future.
Before any of the actual construction can begin, Eastern must gain approval from the township. Neighbors of Eastern are also being asked to give input for the building plans. “We are up against the typical college stereotype,” Brigham said, “and it’s our job to prove that we are different.” Eastern anticipates to meet all regulations and approvals through cooperation and collaboration.
The earliest that the university foresees breaking ground is late March or early April . Weather permitting, the building will take approximately 18 to 24 months to finish.