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St. Scholastica takes renewed aim to build student center

The college has $10 million set aside for the project and is looking to raise $7 million in the next couple years to build the student gathering space.

St. Scholastica student center rendering (1)
A rendering of a College of St. Scholastica student center. The concept designs are not final and are subject to change. Contributed / College of St. Scholastica

The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth is aiming to break ground in a decades-old goal of building a student center come spring 2023.

In order to do that, the college must meet its target of fundraising another $7 million, or close to it, in time to pay for a building that would be centered on a study and gathering space.

Student Body President Jaci Tourtellott said she didn't feel the campus' absence of student gathering space until her sophomore year, when she no longer lived in a dormitory that had its own smaller version of a community space.

While there are small pockets of space around campus where students can eat or do homework, they're limited and not ideal for casual hangouts or group work.

"We don't have any space to just be students," Tourtellott said. "We really do want a space because we're all fighting for club space. We're fighting for a meeting space because a lot of clubs use classrooms and then to host an event … we're all fighting over two spaces."

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The college announced on Tuesday the launch of a public campaign to raise $14 million in the next two years to help fund the building of the student center, student scholarships and other, smaller emerging priorities. A silent campaign started in 2014 and since that time St. Scholastica has raised nearly $50 million for those initiatives.

"We are committed to doing this from existing college resources and from fundraising and not to borrow or take on any new debt in order to construct this building," Chris Mueller, St. Scholastica's vice president for college advancement, said. "We want this to be a gift to the students and we don't want them to be burdened with the cost of the building through a long-term debt issue."

Rumors of the college wanting to build a student center go back as far as the 1970s, Mueller said. But as far as he knows, the first time the goal was identified in writing as a goal of the Board of Trustees was in 2003.

Building a student center was one of five projects in a master plan created in 2003 and it was the only project not completed. The college's budget for the students center is $14 million-$17 million and the board has $10 million of that set aside for the project. The building is planned to sit on the north side of Tower Hall and adjacent to the Mitchell Auditorium on what's currently a parking lot.

St. Scholastica student center rendering
A rendering of a College of St. Scholastica student center pictures a campus quad in front of the center. The concept designs are not final and are subject to change. Contributed / College of St. Scholastica

A concept design of the building was completed early this year. Because construction costs have increased during the pandemic, Mueller said the college is working with its architect and contractor to build the best center they can, while sticking to their budget. Student input is informing the design.

Key elements of the building would include gathering space for studying, activities and organization as well as recreation. Students have suggested an area with pool or foosball tables. A large, "homey" atrium area with a coffee shop, fireplace and small performance stage would most likely be included as well.

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"The amount of space we have is so small that it's taken very quickly," Mueller said. "We just don't have enough options for many groups to meet together and work together and we know in education these days that collaborative work is really important."

Citing a 2019 report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mueller said properly designed student union-type facilities can reduce mental health concerns on a campus by up to half.

While she'll never get to experience the campus with a student center, Tourtellott said it will positively change the campus and the student experience.

"I really hope this happens and it entices more people to go here and get a four-year education and really sit in it and grow," she said.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONDULUTH
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