Revamped and ready for action

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Holland and others cut the ribbon for the new center for Student Success.

Holland and others cut the ribbon for the new center for Student Success.

With the opening of the new Utah Valley University Library on July 1, 2008, the Losee Library was soon neglected. This space, which once housed students through their academic struggles and achievements, became obsolete in comparison. It was soon forgotten, and its legacy was degraded to mere brick and concrete.

However, it was not forgotten by everyone. It was to be revived and given a new mission. Its existing framework would be renovated and it would become a center dedicated to students.

The idea was to bring the various student services together within the same physical location. The initial plan included housing one-stop along with all of the related departments, but space was too limited to accommodate everyone.

“We thought, if they can’t all go, is there some kind of a concept that would really open the doors to student success in a way that would be meaningful?” said Cory Duckworth, vice president of student affairs. “We came up with the idea to call it the Losee Center for Student Success, and bring into the facility all of the positions that council and advise students, which would help them in accomplishing their higher education objectives.”

It became a matter of deciding which entities would really further this mission. Departments such as the Center for Engaged Learning, Accessibility Services, the Career & Academic Counseling Center and Student Advisement & Support Services were among the 23 chosen.

Unaffiliated with student services, the Behavioral Sciences Faculty Offices and the Communications Department were also chosen, due to overcrowding and inaccessibility.

To make the vision a reality, Axis Architects was chosen to design the project. It became a collaboration between the architects and those selected to occupy the building.

“They sat down together and identified their needs and what they were trying  to accomplish,” Duckworth said. “After collecting massive amounts of data, they came up with multiple designs which we revised until we were happy with the final concept.”

On Oct. 2, 2008, the notice to proceed was given.

“Part of the first, second, and third floors were remodeled, along with the entire fourth floor,” said Jim Michaelis, associate vice president of Facilities Planning. “We also ripped out old elevators and put in one single elevator which goes to each floor.”
“The elevator is now ADA and emergency compliant where the old ones were outdated,” added Frank Young, senior director of engineering and space.

While the new elevator is a definite advantage, it was one of the most difficult undertakings. These difficulties included digging through the existing infrastructure, during which they hit water beneath the building, and building a bridge to connect the elevator to level four.

“We put in a lot of offices and conference rooms and there is a new advisor training studio on the third floor,” Young said. “We also created much better interview rooms where students and employers can interact.”

The feedback from faculty has been very positive, despite less student traffic than usual. The belief is that students simply need to become aquatinted with the space.

“My office was a closet before that had been made up into an office. The space was designed with students in mind … we wanted them to feel comfortable, welcome and important. The space for staff was also designed with that in mind. We love the new look and feel,” said Michelle Taylor, associate vice president of Student Services.

The building’s signature feature is the atrium, which is spacious and surrounded by windows. It houses a cafe and was designed as a place for students to interact, relax and enjoy themselves.

“We wanted the students to have direct access to faculty, so we completely surrounded that atrium with faculty offices. The hope is that this will promote the building of close relationships,” Duckworth said.

For those interested in sustainability, the new center has some eco-friendly features.

“We upgraded the air handlers so they could blow warm and cool air more efficiently. We also used carbon-neutral carpeting, and the offices have programmable diffusers which allow them to control their environment more than other buildings,” Young said.

One drawback is the minimal parking near the center, which has only eight visitor stalls.
“However, it is easy to access the building through the other buildings on campus because all the buildings are interconnected,” Taylor said.

With $1.4 million from Utah’s Capital Improvement Fund and over $2.5 million used from institutional funds, these improvements didn’t come cheap, although the price was lower than initially expected because the construction industry is struggling.

This investment is still extremely generous considering the recent budget cuts.

“It was absolutely worth it  because we are continuing to facilitate the growth of the student body. We are now able to serve them more efficiently and effectively,” Duckworth said. “I think the minimal costs associated with retrofitting the space were valuable and appropriate.”