SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2016) The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for its new $1.6 million Student Commons.
“I feel really happy with how it turned out, and I think the students are really happy with it, too,” Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said as more than 100 faculty, students, staff and others gathered for the ceremony at the campus’ north end.
The ribbon cutting, from noon to 2 p.m., concluded a remodeling begun in May with workers tearing out the old student lounge, fitness room and Student Government offices. After three months, the result is a reconfigured, 6,900-square-foot Student Commons with a larger fitness area, new Student Government offices and a modern lounge space that flows into Jonathan’s Café.
Designed by architects Harvard Jolly Inc. with student input, the project was intended as an open, inviting space where students can study, exercise, relax and socialize. Workers removed walls and installed glass partitions in some places to achieve a welcoming feel.
“Even in the Student Government area we used glass to create a feeling of transparency and to promote the idea that students are welcome there,” said Phil Trezza, a principal at Sarasota architecture firm Harvard Jolly. “The whole space looks a lot more visually appealing as well. We didn’t have to compromise at all on design.”
In addition to the larger fitness area and new Student Government offices, the space includes several amenities, such as a gaming area, three large flat-screen TVs, study carrels, couches, chairs, a pool table and a foosball table. A coffee bar and ping pong table will be added soon. The space opened the first day of the fall semester on Aug. 22.
The work comes amid a flurry of changes after USFSM shifted from a two-year to a four-year institution in 2013, adding freshman and sophomore classes.
Dr. Stone explained that as USFSM’s educational mission changed, the campus itself needed to adapt to reflect “a more engaged, dynamic, student-centered” tone. As with this most recent project, the campus’ other improvements came with the Student Government’s input and assistance. Those projects, which occurred over the past two years, include an expanded Information Commons area on the second floor, two new mobile biological laboratories at the north end of campus, a new basketball court and a beach volleyball area at the campus’ west end.
“I hope the level of student involvement in this project will be the standard by which future projects are measured,” Student Government President Andrew Becht told the crowd, adding that former Student President Alex Benishek’s “leadership, vision and drive” helped guide the Student Commons project.
Approved last year by Student Government and USFSM’s senior leadership, the project was funded by Capital Improvement Trust Funds and Student Activity and Services Fees collected over several years. Students offered input throughout the design process, from overall layout to color choices, lighting and furniture.
The consensus among students, staff and faculty Monday was a collective thumbs up. “There’s a lot more space for students now and it’s a more inviting,” Student Engagement Coordinator Kim Mones said. “It’s also a lot brighter and more colorful.”
Student Jeanie Ziven, a junior, said, “Now, it’s a more open. Before it was cramped and you couldn’t get a lot of people into the lounge area. I think this will help to bring more students into the space.”
Senior Jaime Carranza said, “It’s more visible to the students. It looks really good. The fitness area is a big improvement. I think it will get a lot more use now.”
For more information about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit usfsm.edu.
About USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM)
USF Sarasota-Manatee is a regional campus of the University of South Florida system, offering the prestige of a nationally ranked research university with the convenience of a hometown location, including classes in Manatee County, Venice and online. Separately accredited, USFSM is ideal for those interested in pursuing a baccalaureate or master’s degree, professional certification, or continuing education credit in a small, personal setting with distinguished faculty and a dynamic curriculum of over 40 academic programs. Website: www.usfsm.edu.