Construction allows a more efficient facility for students and staff
BY ELAINE GEROU AND JOE ZYLKA
MANAGING EDITOR AND NEWS EDITOR
Since the McDowell Center opened in 1995, it has been a hub for students and administration, helping with career choices, academic planning and the finances of college. However, the opening of the Jeffress Center is causing a seismic shift in the halls of the McDowell Building. The McDowell Center is currently in the process of its first major renovation ever, costing $1.6 million, which is being funded by a bond Schoolcraft floated itself.
No longer will the finance, accounting and top Schoolcraft officials be housed at McDowell. Instead, McDowell will become more student-oriented in nature, and everything from the setup to the floor system will be altered to better connect students to Schoolcraft College, career choices and advancement.
Some may ask why there was a need for so many changes to begin the construction in 2013.
“We really looked at the areas of dissatisfaction for the students [from years of surveys], what they really liked, and our first objective was to try to eliminate some of the areas of dissatisfaction and to capitalize more on our strengths,” said Cheryl Hagen, Vice President of Student Services. “One of the areas of greatest dissatisfaction was the wait time for counseling and advising.”
One of the major changes coming with the construction will be the separation of the counseling and advising departments, which will help more clearly direct students to what they need. Having students visit advisors for solely class scheduling and counselors for career planning, choosing a program or an emotional issue will reduce the wait time.
“We have really expanded the counselors’ role to deal with more of the mental health issue, which we are seeing— every college is seeing,” said Hagen. “In the past, counselors were so busy helping students with their program choices that they really didn’t have time for this.”
Some of the counselors are even specialized in different areas such as eating disorders and grieving.
Another added asset that tremendously reduced the wait time for counseling and advising is the new Answer Center, located on the second floor, which takes about 7,500 calls a month and can schedule appointments for students, taking a load off of other departments. The hours are from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Having the Answer Center open over break brought in more students to Schoolcraft as well.
“Nobody else has anything like it, so I think it really is a competitive advantage for us. I don’t know of any other community college that has these kind of hours of operation,” said Hagen. “We want to make sure that when a student needs us, there is someone to serve them.”
One last reconstruction helping reduce the wait time for counselors and advisors is the expansion of Admissions. Hagen says this helps because now parents and interested students who simply want to learn about Schoolcraft as a college have the space to sit down and talk to someone in admissions rather than to a counselor. There is also more space to fill out applications.
The Student Financial Services expanded for discussions and privacy, and the Testing Center expanded and moved to the second floor. 20,000 tests per year take place in that room for GED tests, placement tests or make-up tests. The English as a Second Language program (ESL) has more dedicated labs in the building as well.
A completely new addition to the McDowell Center is Student Relations on the first floor, which is a centralized area to attend to filed complaints. Students can file complaints at the SC Care website and will get timely feedback.
A PLACE FOR EVERYONE
The McDowell Building is also better helping our local war heroes through the Veterans Resource Center (VRC), located on the second floor, which has computers and printers among other resources. The VRC opened appropriately on Veterans Day this past fall.
“One of the main things we do is process their education benefits,” said Pam Paxton-Keehner, who runs the VRC. “Now that we actually have a room for them, we have space school and community resources to help them with anything they need.”
The Women’s Resource Center is also re-opening with the renovations and will have a lactation room available to mothers feeding or pumping. It will be a part of the counseling and career services to help women become more independent by giving them a support system, get a job and support themselves.
Although there is currently noise, dust and cold air inside the McDowell Center from the restructuring, all students will benefit from the changes, even if it is just by the appeal.
“There will be a more modern feel to the architecture here, and the painting of school colors gives a sense of school spirit,” said second-year Schoolcraft student Chauné Rael-Whitsitt. “It will also make the building more welcoming and inviting for people.”
Cameras have also been added throughout the building to ensure safety during the long, tough renovation project.
“The biggest challenge is maintaining construction schedules, while working in a building that is fully-occupied by students and staff,” said Jerry Piasentin, Project Manager. “If one phase should fail to keep schedule, all subsequent phases would be pushed back and some might fall on peak business periods that would present additional challenges.”
Until construction is completely finished in September or October this year, services may be moved around a bit. Despite the changes and construction, one can always reference the front desk that has staff updated on where everything is to help one navigate the newly renovated and more efficient McDowell Center.