It's 1 p.m. on Friday, exactly 24 hours before the Baker Wildcats continue their undefeated season at Liston Stadium. Campus is abuzz in anticipation of the weekend's events: the Chamber Choir performance tonight, the fraternity party on Saturday and, of course, the rendezvous for coffee with the friend from Biology on Sunday.
But the week isn't over yet—2:30 p.m. U.S. History remains—so there's really only one place to go: the Student Union.
Take two steps into the vibrant new Union and it becomes immediately clear that hundreds of other Wildcats share that Friday-in-Baldwin City excitement. The agendas are different—the two sorority sisters leaving the renovated dining hall are headed to watch a movie in the lounge across from the cafe, and the guys from Mungano are sneaking in a few billiards games before their fundraiser later that evening—but the sentiment is the same: the Student Union is the pulse of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Students will love the new Union, this we know. Modern architecture, flat-screen TVs, an array of creative seating options and tall glass windows will define the space. The center will be as versatile as the people inside it, a lively intersection of social and studious set against the backdrop of the most beautiful college campus in the state. New offices for our student affairs staff will be built upstairs, and three large study rooms for student use will line the east wall of the addition. On the north side of the building we are planning to build a 300-person multipurpose center, the perfect place to host University events like Alumni Weekend. A student can grab a bite to eat while printing his literature review on the public computers in the student lounge. Within 100 yards from the New Living Center and Gessner Hall, this building will instantly become a gateway to the entire campus, an orange-filled one-stop shop.
Thanks to a $1.1 million lead gift, phase one of the campaign, the renovation to the dining hall, will be completed before the students arrive back on campus for the fall 2013 semester. Thanks to our partners at Sodexo Inc., the new Union is going to taste like a million bucks, too.
Rather than the current single-option food line, the new dining hall will be station based, similar to the food court at a shopping mall. Students, faculty and staff will have several daily food stations available to them, including pizza and pasta, classic entree, vegetarian, grilled food, international, dessert and beverage. The Student Union will welcome and serve a variety of guests and offer a menu sure to please just about anyone.
The renovation and addition to the east of the dining hall is the second phase in the project. This area will include the new coffee bar and cafe. Pastries, deli sandwiches and cappuccinos will be staples on this side of the house, ideal for the professor on the go between classes or the hungry student who wants to stick around and watch the game.
Why Do It?
A family needs a living room: a place to connect, to eat, to laugh, to work and to play. The Baker family is no different. That's why we are transforming our Student Union into a vibrant multiuse gathering space poised to delight our current family members and entice prospective ones.
The Student Union is unquestionably the most trafficked building on our campus. It is often the first place prospective students visit during their tours. Admission data tell us that 18-year-olds know within three minutes whether they could see themselves attending a certain university, so first impressions and upgraded facilities can be the difference between enrolling the best and the brightest or losing them to a school down the road. Open just eight months, we are already reaping the benefits of the new Ivan L. Boyd Center for Collaborative Science Education. This year's science enrollment numbers are the highest they've been in five years, and that facility is home to about one-third of our students. Imagine what the new Union—a building used by each and every student in Baldwin City—could do for Baker's enrollment.
We think Baker students are pretty special. In fact, we think that when you couple our outstanding faculty with opportunities for growth and innovation, our students can change the world. But these collaborations and ideas aren't always born in the library or classroom.
We need to create a welcoming social environment, complete with all the amenities, where diverse populations of students, faculty and staff can share and learn about themselves. A place to have fun. And if changing the world happens along the way, then, well, Baker will be more than the first university in Kansas, it will be the best, too.