Written by:Mirella Barrera-Betancourt
In early fall of 2021, Western received over $21,000 from the state of Oregon to fund the construction of a new building in the place of the existing Old Education Building on campus. The intended goal of the new construction project was for the Student Success Center to function as a space for students to comfortably receive academic support.
In September of the same year, the Student Success Center Stakeholder Committee was formed. According to Chelle Batchelor, one of the co-chairs of the project, alongside Mike Elliot, originally, the committee included three student representatives, in an effort to make the committee as inclusive to the campus community as possible.
The committee’s mission statement—which was written primarily by the committee’s student representatives—reads, “The Student Success Center is an inclusive gathering place that provides individualized support for every student to be successful in their academic goals. This welcoming and accessible campus hub provides complementary academic support resources, collaborative space and opportunities for the celebration of traditionally underrepresented student identities. In this non-judgmental community space, each student is the agent in their own learning.”
With this in mind, the role of the committee was to think critically about the mission of the building, while also considering it within a triangle of student needs and movement on campus, such as Hamersly Library and the Werner University Center — both of which are located at the heart of campus.
“What we were hearing loud and clear is that (students) feel like they just get run around all over campus trying to get what they need,” Batchelor said. “They would say: why is it that I have to go to this building down at the far end of campus this way to access disability services, or (to) go to the Writing Center, but then you know, we’ve got our health services way over here … They just feel like things are too far apart on campus that (need) to all be brought together.”
Such sentiments were reflected in the two focus groups held by Gensler — the architecture firm responsible for the construction of the Student Success Center — that provided students the opportunity to get involved in the preliminary design and planning of the building.
Batchelor stated, “From the very beginning, even when we first talked with Gensler, we let them know that we were (going to) want student feedback to be really an important part of their process.”
Students who attended these focus groups were presented with a map of Western’s campus and asked questions such as, “Where do you like to be on campus? What are the places that make you feel included? What are the places that you want to go when you’re looking to study? What are the places that you want to go when you’re looking to socialize with other people? Where do you feel represented?”
The results showed that Hamersly library provided students with a space for quiet, collaborative study time, while many saw the Werner University Center as a space for social activity and engagement. This left a gap in the triangle where student support should have been located.
“It’s all about supporting students, creating a campus core of student support that goes beyond the Student Success Center, and then also specifically offering those services of Disability Services, Career Pathways and advising and tutoring,” Batchelor said.
Student support services housed in the Student Success Center will include the Office of Disabilities, Academic Advising Center, Student Enrichment Program, Center for Career Pathways, Veterans Resource Center and Western’s tutoring services. The additions of new services are in discussion.
Students who missed out on the chance to attend the focus groups should not be discouraged. According to Batchelor, Gensler will be returning in January 2023 to garner more student opinion. Further details will be announced as the date approaches.
While the new construction for the Student Success Center is in its preliminary planning stage, the initial construction process is planned to begin summer 2023. The new Student Success Center is expected to be open and occupied by fall 2024.
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