Student-focused spaces bring community feel to heart of college campus
[Grayslake, IL] – For years, a rarely used student communal space resembling a sunken living room sat at the center of College of Lake County’s (CLC) main campus. Today, that same space is reimagined as a light-filled Student Commons connected to a new café, Welcome and One Stop Center, and a retail-class Campus Store . . . all designed to make the student experience as enjoyable as possible.
In late September, this Student Commons set the background as CLC administrators and board members officially dedicated the renovated campus core and café addition designed by Legat Architects and built by Mortenson Construction. Cotter Consulting served as owner’s representative and program manager.
The projects, which broke ground in May 2015, continue a relationship between CLC and Legat that spans over 30 years.
Dr. Jerry Weber, CLC President, made a few opening remarks, then introduced the main speaker: Board of Trustees Chair Dr. William M. Griffin.
Griffin pointed out a few highlights, including the commons stairway, the new Café Willow addition, new offices for Student Life, the Welcome and One Stop Center, and the new Lancer Zone Campus Bookstore. He also noted the energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system “that underscores the college’s dedication to sustainability.”
“A primary goal we had was to centralize everything and create a more welcoming site for our students,” said Griffin. “It’s all right here at the heart of the campus.”
Following the dedication, Rick Seng, Enrollment Services Student Ambassador and theater/stats major, led a tour that started in what used to be an underused courtyard. Today, it is a Student Street that showcases the Student Activities office (formerly at the end of a hallway).
Seng said, “The biggest pluses about this Student Street are recognition and visibility.” For instance, last year, 200 students showed for the Energize to Go! event that informs them about the various clubs the college offers. This year, with the new space, over 800 students showed.
The Student Street also offers a multipurpose room where many of the college’s 40+ clubs come to meet. Seng said that the large space’s glass wall helps advertise clubs to passing students.
The tour then explored the Student Commons, which features comfortable seating, wall outlets for students to plug devices into, abundant natural light, and a soon-to-be-completed IT Help Desk that will offer free computer problem-solving services.
CLC’s old cafeteria was located below ground in a hard-to-find location. It’s a stark contrast from the new Café Willow addition. Large windows fill the café with natural light. Additionally, the college has used the new café to expand food choices with a focus on organic, fresh foods.
Seng then introduced the new Welcome and One Stop Center, a catch-all space for students to get answers related to admissions, financial aid, and records. Advising and Counseling services (academic, transfer, and crisis) move from dated, back-of-the-house areas to right next to the One Stop and Student Resource Center.
“Students no longer have to go searching for information,” said Seng. “If they’re looking for something, it’s probably right here. Plus, teachers and students say it creates a far more professional atmosphere.”
The adjacent Student Resource Center, on display through glass walls, houses the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, the Women’s Center, the Multicultural Student Center, and Veteran Student Services. The resource area also offers a Career and Job Placement Center that helps students find work and internships both within the college and the community.
The group then headed over to the south end of the campus to get a sneak peek of the college’s new Science and Advanced Technology Building (also designed by Legat), which features state-of-the-art labs for chemistry, organic chemistry, mechatronics, robotics, photonics, and lasers. This new three-story building, currently under construction, is registered for LEED Platinum certification and incorporates a geothermal system, photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, and a rainwater harvesting system, as well as other sustainable features. The building’s two-story atrium will also serve as the new south entry to the campus when completed.
Seng concluded his tour at the new Lancer Zone Campus Store, which sells everything from cards and snacks to backpacks and CLC-branded apparel. Textbooks are sold in the bookstore space in the lower level.
Since the projects have been completed, Seng has noticed a major increase in the number of students who spend time in the college’s common areas. He said, “Because of these changes, there’s now a very communal feeling at the college, and that makes a huge difference.”
Contact us for more on higher education design, or share your thoughts about this post below.