New Student Engagement center to cost $250,000

Renovation of the former University Bookstore is expected to begin within the next month, officials said.

The project, which will cost about $250,000, creates a “one-stop shop” for SGA and Student Engagement offices, and a conference room for Greek life officers, said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Tammy Jacques.

“We want to create a true student engagement center,” Jacques said. “We want students to feel like it is a space where they can come and be themselves.”

Jacques said each department will have its own space but will still be visible and accessible, creating an open environment.

One goal of the move is to increase student access to resources and assistance from the Office of Student Engagement, she said.

“Student organizations will be able to work in the front of the office and use resources that help support them,” she said. “It will also be more convenient for students who want to find out how to get engaged on campus.”

Student Scott Piechocki said he believes the time is right for the move.

“UNA has already constructed a new commons building and a new science building, and is currently building new dorms,” Piechocki said. “Both SGA and Student Engagement help students, so I think it is all right to use the budget to renovate a new area for them.”

The move will leave Student Engagement’s current offices open for further use. “Another department will move into the Student Engagement space,” Jacques said.

She said University Events will likely fill the offices.

“Capital improvement projects like this are funded out of our main budget,” said Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Clinton Carter. “We budget about $1.6 million for projects each year.”

Carter said the money is allocated to projects he, the university president, and the Facilities Administration and Planning department deem appropriate.

Sophomore Abby Warren said she thinks there are other projects on campus that elicit university funding more importantly than the bookstore renovation.

Carter said a list of potential projects proposed by faculty, staff and students is narrowed down to the top five or six.

The decision is based on many factors, including priority, total cost, efficiency, feasibility, availability of funds and timing, he said.

“At the top of the list this year were the Norton bathrooms and the GUC bookstore, so we are proceeding with those projects,” Carter said. “We are in the contracting phase with the architect for the bookstore.”

Senior Erin McAllister said she sees the move coming full circle.

“It will increase student engagement, which will in turn help our school improve,” she said.

Jacques said the architectural plan will provide students a more inviting environment.

“Along with more cubicles and computers, we are hoping to have couches and a television,” she said.

The plan also includes more work areas for student organizations and more office space for student leadership consultants, she said.

Carter said officials are already several weeks into planning.

“They will get started on construction this fall — probably within the next four to six weeks,” he said.

Carter acknowledged recent budget cuts but reported them as insignificant and not likely to affect the project.