NASHVILLE, Tenn. ñ Vanderbilt will break ground Saturday, Oct. 4, on a new Student Life Center that will feature a 10,000-square-foot social hall, a comprehensive career center and consolidated space for international scholars and study abroad services.
The $11.4 million project also includes the renovation of Branscomb South Dining Room, which will be linked to the new 55,400-square foot Student Life Building. The groundbreaking ceremony will begin at noon and feature Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee, a number of senior administrators and representatives from the Vanderbilt student body.
"The project is a direct response to the wishes of our students," said Chancellor Gordon Gee. "They have told us that their No. 1 priority is the development of a large social space on campus." With adjoining catering space, the hall will be able to accommodate dances, dinners and other large social functions.
The plan, approved in February by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trust, calls for the new building to be located near 25th Avenue South and Kirkland Place, behind the Schulman Center and to the west of Branscomb Quadrangle in keeping with the University’s Land Use Plan, which designates that area as the new central campus. Site preparation began at the end of the 2003 spring semester, and the construction has a projected completion date of January 2005.
The new building is designed to complement the existing Sarratt Student Center, which contains no large social space.
The social hall, which will comprise nearly all of the first level of the new building, will be capable of being subdivided into three equal spaces of 3,333 square feet. Each will have the capacity to accommodate student groups of varied size and function. There will also be meeting space on the lower level and in the renovated Branscomb South dining hall.
"The best part of this project will be the new social space," said Madani Adjali, Vanderbilt Student Government Association president. "The space can be configured as one large room for concerts or segmented into three separate rooms. This flexibility will help student organizations plan large events without scrambling to find a location."
The second level of the new building will house the new, expanded career center, as well as offices for pre-professional advising and international scholarship.
"While the centerpiece of this exciting building is the large social space dedicated to student use, what I think is even more significant is that this project represents a partnership of many segments of the University coming together to provide an enhanced level of service to our students," said Steve Caldwell, associate vice chancellor for student life.
Career Center Director Francene Gilmer said the new facility will give a much needed boost to the center’s efforts to make students and potential employers aware of "who we are and what we do."
For more than 50 years, the Career Center has been located in Alumni Hall, and it has occupied its current space in the basement and on the first floor for the past 27 years. With the employer interview space in the basement and much of the Career Center staff on the first floor, the current space is "unprofessional and uninviting," Gilmer said, and isn’t in a location typically visited by students.
The floor plan for the new space will place all of the staff, the employer interview rooms and the resources center on one floor. "The new design allows us to serve students and be close to the employers so that we can attend to their needs," she said. Space has also been allocated for workshops and employer information sessions.
The proximity to the hall on the first floor and the nearby storage space will simplify the logistics of the four annual career fairs, Gilmer said. "We won’t have to transfer supplies and boxes of materials" as the staff has in the past from Alumni Hall to the former Stadium Club and last year to Branscomb Quadrangle.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to the new location, Gilmer said, is that "we’ll be some place where the students can see us, see what’s going on and take advantage of our services."
The Study Abroad program and International Scholars and Students Services will both be located on the second floor, allowing for a consolidation of relevant services. "The Student Life Center will become the one-stop shop that caters to students’ needs for after-graduation plans or abroad opportunities," said Adjali, the Student Government Association president. The programs also are expected to benefit from a more central and convenient location. Currently the Study Abroad office is in Furman Hall and the International Scholars and Students Services office is across campus in the Zerfoss Student Health Center.
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