Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on the new Baker University Center.
Nov. 2, 2006
By Mary Reed
The new 183,300-square-foot Baker University Center does not contain a single classroom. But don't be fooled: It will be a center for out-of-class learning in ways that have never existed on campus before.
For starters, Baker will be home to Ohio University's first academically oriented Student Help Center, which will serve as a centralized and comprehensive source of information, referral and walk-in assistance to students and others. Dale Tampke, assistant provost for undergraduate retention, will oversee the new Help Center, which is a program of University College and Student Affairs. He says it will deliver "just-in-time" services to students who need any type of information, from why there's a hold on their registration to the identity of their adviser.
"(The Help Center) is a place where you call and not get the answer, 'We don't do that here,'" Tampke says.
The Help Center also will coordinate academic success workshops, academic skill advising, general advising and information to meet students' other academic needs. It will offer initial assistance and make referrals to places such as the Academic Advancement Center for longer-term help.
Tampke describes the new Baker University Center as the "living room" of campus that should be comfortable for everyone. He wants the Help Center to be comfortable, too: "Not just cushions, but in terms of environment and fit .... We're going to be on the front line to help a student who doesn't quite feel the 'fit.'"
A living room feel is how Honors Tutorial College Dean Ann Fidler describes the Honors Collegium, a quiet study lounge near Baker University Center's Court Street entrance. In addition to living room-style furniture, the Honors Collegium will feature a décor showcasing the academic successes of Ohio University students and faculty.
"I'm happy that the designers consulted with people on the academic side of things," says Fidler, who came up with the idea for the space. Organizations such as Phi Beta Kappa will be invited to share copies of their charters to hang on the walls of the Honors Collegium. Lists of winners of nationally and internationally competitive awards and significant faculty achievements will be prominently displayed.
"Among the most significant aspects of campus life for years and years and years are honor societies and honoraries," says Dean of Students Terry Hogan. "Ohio University has a rich history in this area."
Having faculty and students in the same space increases the likelihood that they will interact more consistently outside the classroom, Fidler adds. "Some of the best conversations begin with someone saying, 'What are you reading?' The Honors Collegium is designed to be a catalyst for those sorts of encounters."
Visible through the windows of the Honors Collegium is an outdoor clock donated by the Ohio University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Phi Beta Kappa is the country's oldest academic honor society, and the local chapter is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
"We said, 'We would like to do something for this campus that would honor academic achievement and be useful on campus,'" says Mark Lucas, associate professor of physics and president of the chapter. "Phi Beta Kappa emphasizes a strong liberal arts education. Its members are committed to the belief that a broad education is very important for our students."
The clock was purchased through the support of more than 180 members of Phi Beta Kappa, with a significant contribution from the family of Evelyn Underwood Holden, who was inducted into the Ohio University chapter in 1931.
A new state-of-the-art Career Center will be housed on the fifth floor of Baker and will feature a conference room where students can attend skill-development seminars related to career development and the job search process. It also will include a computer resource lab and interview rooms for visiting employers. Career fairs will be held in Baker from now on.
Thomas F. Korvas, director of Career Services, points out that most people attend college to get the education and technical skills they need to get good jobs and become contributing members of society. To that end, Career Services helps advise students when they are choosing a major.
"It's tremendous for us to be in a high-visibility location," Korvas says about his department's new place on campus. "Students, employers and staff are excited about it."
Another feature that's sure to be popular is the first-floor computer lab, which will have 32 stations (both PCs and Macs with Windows capabilities). Two stations will be accessible for individuals with disabilities. The computer lab will be open whenever the building is open (a total of 128 hours each week), making it highly accessible.
Even the outside of Baker University Center reflects and supports the university's academic mission. In front of the first-floor entrance, which is the old Hocking River bed, is a pond designed in part to catch storm sediment. But the pond will serve double duty as a land lab.
"When plans were being drawn up for the new student center, I was delighted to learn that they were considering landscaping the new pond using native plants," says Phil Cantino, professor and associate chair of the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology. Cantino and his colleagues drew up a list of species that grow well in damp soil and would be useful for teaching. Instructors soon will be able to use the pond as teaching tools in botany courses.
"To the botanist's eye," Cantino says, "a campus is an arboretum with buildings scattered among the trees."
Ohio University has quite a remarkable new building among its trees; one that is designed to help academic careers blossom and grow.
Mary Reed is a writer with University Communications and Marketing. Photos by Rick Fatica.