SSB remodel: First Year Success
Find out how the updated second floor of the Student Success Building helps make new students feel at home.
August 2, 2017
If you’ve been in the Student Success Building lately, you’ll no doubt have noticed some new digs throughout. More than just a fresh coat of paint, however, it’s all to help students feel a welcome connection to their University.
We caught up with Lunden MacDonald, director of MSU Denver’s First Year Success program, to chat about how the effort creates a positive impact for new Roadrunners right from the start.
What was the inspiration behind the remodel of the second floor?
Facilities representatives approached me and told me that they would like to work on changing some things around on the second floor while they were doing the first.
As we spoke, though, it became clear that we could do a lot to make the second floor much more student-friendly. Before, the spaces were not really conducive to hanging out or just “being.” Students need that. Also, there was nothing that said “MSU Denver” or “Roadrunners” or anything that would connect students to the school. … All of our conversations were about how to make the spaces more for the students.
What are some of the enhancements?
A lot was cosmetic, but there have been some major physical changes inside the FYS offices: We took out the welcome desk that was inside the FYS offices and put it outside, so now the first thing they see when they come up the stairs is the desk, staffed with students who are peer mentors.
Inside, we created a student lounge area with tables for studying, bean bags for hanging and chatting, and computers for student use. We also installed a huge bookcase to house our student and faculty lending libraries and our giant collection of games that students can check out in between classes. All of this was done to promote student engagement, both with FYS and with each other.
Outside the office, it started last year when I bought the game tables — we have pingpong and foosball so that the students can hang and play. We also got all new furniture that looks better and moves to promote group studying and hanging out better. We hung the “Life in the First Year” banner — art that actually represents our students’ voices and lets students know that we are listening.
In the hallways by the classrooms, they made cubbies that are cozy and cushioned upholstered spaces for studying or hanging out — check them out; they are always full. They also installed a nice window seat on the wall by the new AES building. In the FYS lobby, we installed a high counter, and chairs are coming — this is for charging devices, studying, eating, whatever. We also put corkboard on the wall with the counter so that students can post ads for roommates, announcing events or activities.
Basically, the whole remodel has been imagined with student comfort and engagement in mind. A lot of our students come just two long days per week, and they are on campus all day — we want them to have a space where they can be comfortable between classes. Engaging the students and instilling a sense of Roadrunner pride is also particularly key. We want students to know that this is a real college experience, it is their experience, and we are here to support it.
What has the reaction been from students?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive. On any given day, you can see students hanging out in the mezzanine space by the FYS offices. There’s always someone there, playing games and eating and looking like students — not looking like they are waiting for the next appointment to be called. We are able to directly connect and interact with students now that the welcome desk is outside of our offices. All of the events that we had in the spring were amazing and utilized the space in incredible ways. There is so much more flexibility.
What are your goals for the space?
During the coming year, I would like to see faculty and staff using this space more. It would be great to see folks from Admissions or Financial Aid coming up on breaks to play pingpong, and I would love to see faculty eat lunch in the space or just grade papers there.
The remodel has done a lot to improve quality of life for students in that space, but the way we could make it even better would be to give them the opportunity to truly engage with faculty and staff beyond just FYS — they need to know who works here and why. This may help to connect them to more resources, or it may help them to find allies on campus — that would be my dream.