AUGUSTA – The University of Maine at Augusta has resumed its $ 2 million project to renovate the Randall Student Center on the Augusta campus.
The project was due to be completed by the end of August, but encountered problems along the way due to the nationwide labor shortage. Jonathan Henry, vice president of registration management and marketing at WBU, said there was a delay in furniture, building materials and drivers to ship supplies.
Along with the renovation project, the college is adding an on-campus visitor center, as well as offices to increase the reach of off-campus students. UMA also hopes that the improved student center will attract future students.
Henry expects the project to be carried out around Indigenous Peoples Day, which is October 11.
“We hope to build a community,” he said of the renovation. “In the center, there are places for teachers, the café… We hope this will help rebuild our community after COVID-19 is released. “
Henry said the building had to be designed with the intention of both attracting students and realizing that some students will never see the student center. He estimated that around 25-30% of UMA students are physically based in Augusta. The college has eight sites across the state to increase accessibility and has an online platform.
And with the coronavirus pandemic, Henry said, the virtual and technological aspect of the renovation is particularly important. If some offices or faculty members decide to work remotely, the rooms at the center can be used for a variety of purposes.
According to UMA, 66% of university students have taken the majority of their courses online. Only 11% took them on the Augusta campus, with 23% taking the majority of their courses on the Bangor campus or at another location.
“We had to design it not only for current needs, but also for those who continue to work remotely,” said Henry. “Also for what we need in five to ten years. “
The ventilation will also be updated in the building.
The center already had office space, but Henry said instead of cubicles, offices like financial aid and academic advice will have areas capable of increasing privacy with shaded glass walls and the possibility talk privately with a student on the phone.
“If a student in their 30s brings a kid to school, they can walk into the counselor’s office and have the privacy they might need,” Henry said. “If someone is on a video call, they can now keep the door closed so that no one notices.”
Originally slated to cost around $ 6 million, the university was able to cut costs by moving the bookstore online and creating a larger space to work with. The Randall Student Center currently has a cafe and liquor store, as well as a student lounge and student government room.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council had a say in the construction and asked if a prayer room could be added for students of various faiths. The room will not be defined for a specific religious denomination, but open to all students.
Henry hopes the center will help put WBU on the map.
“My challenge is to make sure that students always know they are welcome,” he said. “They can take classes in person and study here and have their meals, or they can be an online student and never see campus unless you want to come, but I want them to know that they are still welcome.”
New data shows wide range of COVID-19 vaccination rates among Maine students