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The University Magazine

Students dive into splashy new Campus

The lounge on the second floor of the Campus Center features an open gathering area for students with bay windows overlooking RIT’s Quarter Mile and a view of the entrance to Clark Gym.

Students enjoy the Campus Center reading room, which features a working fireplace.

The unique fountain incorporated concrete bleachers that once overlooked the former Woodward Pool.

The new Campus Center has opened its doors after nearly three years of planning and construction. It’s destined to become the beating heart of the campus community – a space where students can connect, socialize and study.

“From the beginning we knew that we wanted to create an inviting atmosphere that was completely student centered,” says Heath Boice-Pardee, associate vice president for student affairs. “This is a gathering place for our students that encourages positive interaction – much like a town square – and connects several aspects of student life together in ways that have never been done before.”

The 30,000-plus square-foot area across from Clark Gymnasium, with access from inside the Student Alumni Union, is characterized by a curved window wall, comfortable seating areas and a fountain with an interesting back story.

As visitors enter the Campus Center, they encounter open spaces and winding staircases leading to the building’s occupants. The facility’s main level is home to the Welcome Center, Student Government, the Leadership Institute and Community Service Center and the RIT Women’s Center. It also includes three general-use conference rooms and a large student club resource area that integrates all aspects of club organization, administration and finance. Tenants on the lower level include the Center for Campus Life, Reporter magazine, the College Activities Board, Global Union and AALANA (African American, Latino American, and Native American) Collegiate Association.

The upper floor features a student lounge in the glass bay overlooking the Quarter Mile. It also houses offices for Orientation and the First-Year Enrichment Program, in addition to offices for the Off Campus and Apartment Student Association. The upper level also has two connected multi-purpose rooms for student events and a sizable reading room complete with working fireplace for quiet study.

“The multi-purpose room has been named the Bamboo Room because it has amazing bamboo wood flooring throughout, which gives it an upscale feel,” says Boice-Pardee. “It’s fun to see the students, faculty and staff embracing this project and making it their own.”

Although the $10 million facility has taken the place of the Woodward Pool area, the pool has not been forgotten. One of the more unusual features inside the Campus Center is the cascading fountain that was created using concrete seating that once overlooked the swimming pool.

“So many faculty and staff have told me that they have fond memories of sitting on the bleachers and watching their children compete in swim meets or participating in swimming lessons,” says Boice-Pardee. “All of those people are elated that the space is being used in a new and different way to serve our university community. In fact, we’re brainstorming ways to make that fountain area more than just a beautiful area. For example, money that is being tossed into the fountain will be donated to charity – and we are thinking of fun and wacky ways to draw more attention to this area – perhaps something involving rubber ducks and inner tubes.”

Students played an integral role in the creation and functionality of the space and so far, they seem pleased with the outcome.

“At most universities, the student union is the core of campus life and activity,” explains Matt Danna, Student Government president. “Previous Student Government administrations saw that this was really lacking in our student union. They advocated for more club space and resources, meeting rooms and new offices related to student life. From the student input came the new Campus Center. What was once Wodward Pool, hosting countless swim meets and events, is now a center for student engagement. With an influx of club membership, new major student organizations, and increasing size of the student body, this construction provided students the foundation they needed for future growth of the institute.”

It’s evidence that RIT remains dedicated to its primary customers – students.

“Some folks have suggested that the detail and intricate finish work in the Campus Center would have been more appropriate for an administrative building,” says Boice-Pardee. “But it’s been clear from the beginning that we wanted to give students the top-rate facility that they deserve. And I think we have.”

Vienna Carvalho with John Follaco