The Student Involvement Suite in Stamp Student Union is shiny and new this semester. There is a large open room with a circular wooden bench in the corner, diner booths on the edge and long tables equipped with power outlets throughout.
On any given day you can walk by and see students quietly immersed in their schoolwork. That’s what bothers Ashley Venneman, the manager of Student Organization Development.
“I want people to talk,” she said, laughing. “I want people to talk to each other, they can talk to themselves if they want, I don’t care, but just talk to each other!”
The space is intended to be collaborative. Not only are its closed rooms available for reservation, but so is everywhere in the lobby, except the diner booths and table with stools.
“Our hope is that students who are involved can use this space but also students who are not currently involved in student organizations can find out what’s happening around campus,” Venneman said.
Beginning in the late afternoon most of the rooms are booked but it is the open space that’s being underused, she said.
The Class of 2018 Student Council held a book signing and discussion at the large “family” table and cushioned chairs at the front of the suite Wednesday afternoon. At 4:30 p.m. the large room was as quiet as a library, at 4:45 p.m. there was chatter and by 5 p.m. a group was gathered around Steven Nemerovski, listening intently to his theory on a multi-party system.
“It’s a very relevant topic, and we thought this would be a really great space because it’s so open and people can come in at any time,” Class Council Vice President Elizabeth Nemerovski said.
Prior to renovation which began last winter, the Student Involvement Suite was mostly a series of hallways and closed rooms. Stamp spent several years researching and studying focus groups to understand what students wanted to get out of the renovated space, Venneman said. The top three requests were for student organizations to have more space for meetings, storage and collaborative work.
“Last year the space was more dingy … and you didn’t really feel like it was a great place to come and have things such as events in here,” Nemerovski said. “I didn’t even know you could rent out this space until I came to inquire about one of the rooms and they said ‘Oh no, you can rent out
any space,’ which I thought was great because with an event like this it’s open to anyone.”
Freshman computer science major Matthew Lober was getting some work done across the room from the book discussion. He said he comes occasionally because it’s comfortable and relatively quiet. He was aware, however, that it is a space where people can talk and hold meetings.
“If a club needs to use the space then I can leave and go somewhere else,” he said. “Most of the time I’m here it’s not for a long amount of time.”
Venneman originally communicated with student groups about the meeting areas through the OrgSync web portal. It is becoming clear that not all of their contact information was up to date so many never got the message, she said. She has begun brainstorming with Stamp Marketing about ways to get the word out about the original vision for the Student Involvement Suite’s communal space.
“We’ve expressed our interest to them in helping to sort of create a campaign, not that will change the culture but that will hopefully ignite the culture change,” Venneman said.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Ashley Venneman.
Teri West is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.