The 24/7 Campus
April 13, 2010
There was a time at Mount Union College when students gathered in the Snack Bar to socialize with one another. Living on campus was the norm and dressing up for dinner in the dining commons was expected. Having a phone in your residence hall room was a luxury and there was no need to worry about having ample parking, because no one had a car.
How times have changed.
Flowers in front of McPherson Center for Human Health and Well-Being
Yesterday's college campus no longer meets the demands of today's students. In an era of instant gratification ' video games, movies on demand, microwavable food, ATM machines, online bill paying, instant credit, ipods, digital picture cell phones and text messaging ' students want, they want immediately and they will go where they can get what it is they desire.
This is the challenge at Mount Union College and other colleges throughout the country ' meeting the needs of today's students.
"Today's students require nice places to live, a car nearby, the kind of food they want and the ability to get it when they want it, and the latest technology that always works," said Dr. Richard F. Giese, president of Mount Union. "Apartment-style housing, enhanced dining opportunities and improved recreational facilities are going to be necessary if we want to remain a competitive force in higher education."
And it's not just Mount Union students who are making these demands. National trends indicate that prospective college students and their families are more concerned than in the past about the comfort level on college and university campuses.
"Something as simple as an ATM machine in the campus center could be a deciding factor in whether or not a prospective student decides to attend your institution," said Giese. "Although this may seem a trivial point to those of us who attended college during much different times, we must realize that the standard has changed. Prospective students are used to modern conveniences that are considered normal, not extravagant."
So, how does Mount Union meet the demands of today's students in an effort to remain competitive? Through the creation of what's called a 24/7 campus, the College can provide students with the modern conveniences they require in order to feel "at home" at Mount Union. In essence, Mount Union must tailor its campus to allow students to eat, sleep and recreate in the fashion in which they have become accustomed.
There is a revolution on college and university campuses today that has changed the way student dining services will operate for decades to come. There is a huge student movement that requires campus food directors to provide healthy, great-tasting food options in an expanded capacity, and Mount Union has heard the call.
As students returned to campus this fall, there were small indications of change everywhere on campus. New landscaping, freshly-planted grass and remodeled residence halls may have been a few updates that students noticed, but no one could miss the Hoover-Price Campus Center 'face lift.'
Among brightly colored walls, remodeled meeting rooms and the relocation of the computer lab to the former Convenience Store location is the new gem of the student center ' the newly-renovated dining commons.
There is no denying the fact that Mount Union College had fallen behind its competitors in the area of dining services over the past decade. In a day and age when colleges and universities all over the country have responded to student demands, Mount Union had to step up to the plate. The result was a partnership with AVI Foodsystems, accompanied by a $3 million renovation to the dining facilities.
'Our dining room had not changed since its inception in the 1960s,' said Giese. 'The renovations put us in the upper tier of desirable dining opportunities among our competitors.'
'In order to maintain our status as a premier residential campus, it is imperative that our guest experience, presentation and quality are outstanding,' said Giese. 'We believe our partnership with AVI will result in one of the best dining experiences among comprehensive colleges like ours in the country.'
The renovation has reduced the long lines students have experienced in the past, replaced by march' style dining, whereby chefs freshly prepare meals in an open area. The new dining area includes a fresh bakery, deli and areas serving grilled food, pizza, pasta and desserts, offering both international and home-style cuisine for students.
'The renovations of the dining commons bring Mount Union's food services up-to-date with the needs and expectations of my generation,' said Erica Burmeister, a sophomore from Alliance, OH. 'When I enter the dining commons, I know longer feel as if I am entering a traditional cafeteria and that makes my experience there so much more enjoyable. I appreciate Mount Union's desire to give its students what they want.'
Physical aspects of the cafeteria were changed including a new color scheme of oranges, greens, purples, tans and silvers on the walls, furniture and flooring. Entrance options to the hall also have been remodeled to replace the single line of entry to several entry points for faster service.
It has been a historical strength of Mount Union College to provide the holistic education of mind, body and spirit that results from creating an on-campus living and learning environment. In a day and age where competitors are building new apartment-style housing, more and more of Mount Union's students have moved off-campus to achieve a more independent lifestyle as opposed to residing in traditional residence hall rooms or even the newer, suite-style halls.
"Nearly 90 percent of freshmen have never shared a bedroom with a sibling and the great majority of our students must," said Giese. "As a result, many either never come to Mount Union or they move off campus as soon as possible."
Plans are underway to improve and modernize the current residence halls on campus and administrators are also working with planners and architects to design and site new apartment-style buildings.
'The independent living offered by apartment-style residences is a very attractive option for students who are trying to decide whether or not to live off campus,' said Giese. 'These facilities will allow the College to meet the ever-growing demand and higher expectations for campus housing.
"We must get our students back on campus to reinforce a historic strength as a residential campus," he added.
The College plans to begin construction on two styles of independent-living facilities on Union Avenue. The first will be apartment-style housing, including the construction of three identical apartment facilities that will house a total of 106 students. Each unit will contain four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a common living area and a kitchen.
Hartshorn Street will be the site of the construction of row houses, two housing 10 units each and another with six units. Each unit will consist of one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen and common living area on the first floor and three bedrooms and an additional bathroom on the second floor. In total, the row houses will provide living space for 104 students.
Each of the students residing in the apartment-style residences and row houses will have an individual bedroom and a parking spot. Both facilities will include laundry facilities and bicycle storage.
"I'm really excited to see what apartment-style living will be like," said Kristin Bellay, a freshman biochemistry major of Alliance, OH. "I feel that the independence provided by these facilities, in comparison with traditional halls, will be the predecessor to complete independence following graduation.'
Another important function of the facilities will be to provide housing for students with disabilities as a number of units will have one ADA-accessible bathroom with two ADA-accessible bedrooms.
A number of apartment-style facilities are scheduled to open on campus for the 2007 Fall Semester.
The campus center used to be the hub of student socialization and activity on college and university campuses. Coffeehouses and snack bars were common gathering spots that played host to numerous events and informal gathering spaces invited students to socialize with one another at various times during the day.
Today's health conscious students have found a new outlet for their social needs ' the recreation facility.
'My friends and I use the recreation facility daily to work out, doing both cardiovascular exercise and weight training,' said Tom Haic, a sophomore business administration major from Concord, OH. 'An expanded area will allow us to work out with one another in an environment that encourages both physical fitness and social interaction.'
Mount Union's current recreation complex consists of the McPherson Center for Health and Well-Being, Timken Physical Education Building and Peterson Field House. Although excellent structures, the space they provide for physical activity and equipment no longer meets the demands of Mount Union's larger student body.
Some institutions of higher education are providing students with recreation opportunities including rock-climbing walls and elaborate leisure pools complete with waterfalls and slides. Although Mount Union's plan will be careful not to be 'trendy,' the College must improve its indoor fitness and recreation facilities.
'Preliminary meetings have been held with a renowned architect on such projects,' said Giese. 'We already have conceptual plans for a two or three phase project to make our facilities absolutely top notch.'
As Mount Union nears in 160th anniversary, the College of yesterday is not forgotten. The campus of today is the result of a continual evolution based upon the changing needs and desires of students, and success cannot come without change. Mount Union has overcome world wars, economic depressions and devastating fires to stand proudly today as the 'Grand Old College.'
'Challenges are nothing new to us, and overcoming them has been our pattern of response through many decades,' said Giese. 'As we work together, all contributing in a synchronized, systematic and shared approach, we will move this College forward to unprecedented heights.'