Action Is: Smith's New Campus Center
By Jacqui Shine '05
In the year and a half since construction
began on the new Campus Center, the structure and the concept
behind it have aroused plenty of speculation. Students, faculty, staff
visitors to campus have contemplated how the 56,000-square-foot
facility might change community life at Smith. But the dramatic glass
arching steel frame that have piqued this curiosity only
hint at the center's potential.
the director of the Campus
a gallery of images of the Campus Center >
the Web site of the Campus Center >
"When we talk about the Campus Center
we need to be aware that we are only talking about a building," says
Tamra Bates, assistant director of student activities. "What I
am more excited about is the Student Activities Program that
we are creating that is going to use the space in the building to add
to the Smith community
as a whole."
Thus, when students returned to campus this
fall, they were greeted not just with a comprehensive new facility that
the mailroom, bookstore and radio
station, but also with an ambitious schedule of community programming -- including
concerts, lectures, parties and films. The center has already improved the quality
of campus life by giving community members a central place to gather, exchange
ideas, relax and engage in an array of social and community activities.
To give students and staff an idea of what
the Campus Center can provide, the first week of the academic
year was designated as "Campus Center Welcome Week," and
the center played host to a variety of events, including a lecture, "How
to Be Good," by New York Times columnist Randy Cohen, sponsored
by the Office of Student Affairs and the Student Government Association;
live music and comedy performances; the annual Student Organizations
Fair; and Leading With Excellence, an all-day conference
for Smith student
leaders. Upcoming events include a weeklong Otelia Cromwell
Day film series, a Family Weekend jazz brunch and the ever-popular exam
All of this, says the center's director,
Dawn Mays-Floyd, will "complete
the Smith experience through staff- and student-initiated programs that will
be social, recreational and educational." The new facility -- and an
energetic programming team that has worked at Smith for a combined 10 years -- will
bring both continuity and creativity to campus programming. And it's not
just a question of finally having more much-needed physical space to host programs.
"Yes, we have more space," explains
Bates, "and yes, the building
is going to centralize student activities on campus, but we also have a great
staff and some fun programming ideas that are going to bring folks to the Campus
Center, whether there is something happening in the center or students are
just looking for another place to go to watch TV, read a book or catch
up with friends."
Students are already making use of the Campus
Center to get away from the stresses of academic and house
you just don't want to stay
in your room…or in your house," says junior Chijindu Onuzo. "You
want a completely different environment, and the Campus Center is a great central
space where you can sit and relax…or just have fun." Students have
been quick to take advantage of the game and TV rooms, garden lounge and café.
But the center is more than just a place
to hang out. Its facilities and programs may also play a
critical role in sparking the challenging conversations on
issues that students struggle with, both in and out of the classroom. "Disagreeing
with folks and having challenging conversations is one thing," says
then to have to share a sink sometimes is enough for students to decide that
the conversation isn't worth it." The Campus Center may provide
safe space where people can engage and challenge one another" that
students have been looking for.
How the new facility -- both the building
and its active, engaged population -- will
ultimately change community life at Smith is, of course, something that
will reveal itself over time, but the Campus Center has already been successful
in providing more space in which students can be themselves.
Scholar Holly Mott especially values the opportunity to "bring
my down time, my regular self, myself outside of class, into the Smith
since she and many other Adas live off campus.
"The building is the cornerstone" of
a changing concept of community, says Bates, "but the programs
will make the difference."
The $23 million center is one of several
capital initiatives in the college's
$425 million fund-raising campaign, which began in 1997. A number of
significant individual gifts have gone toward the project, including
a generous one from
cookbook author and television chef Julia Child, class of 1934.