St. Olaf got busy this summer, spending over $4 million on campus renovations.
Rand Hall, the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion and Skoglund Athletic Center received major face-lifts, while the Office of Student Activities (OSA) and the Center for Advising and Academic Support (CAAS) were relocated.
The Taylor Center expanded into the former OSA area, gaining around 1,700 square feet of space. Various administrators and staff have been planning to augment the Taylor Center for years to better serve the steadily increasing number of international students and students of color on campus, according to Director of Equity and Inclusion María Pabón. The new space will house Taylor Center dialogue sessions and events.
OSA, the office designated for members of the Student Government Association (SGA), moved across the hall into the old CAAS space, Buntrock 108. The move occurred because the former OSA space was “entirely too crowded,” Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton ’87 said. Even though the current office is 1,300 square feet larger than its predecessor, it might actually feel more crowded because other student organizations will use the office for storage and meeting space this year, according to President and Vice President of SGA Devon Nielsen ’20 and Ariel Mota Alves ’20.
While Eaton said both outgoing and incoming bodies of SGA knew the move was coming, Nielsen and Mota Alves said they weren’t consulted regarding the change and were surprised when former Director of Student Activities and Buntrock Commons Kris Vatter informed them the move was in progress in a July email.
Despite the new office catching them off-guard, Nielsen and Mota Alves said they are happy with the space as it seems more accessible to students. Additionally, the storage area in the new OSA will allow SGA members to store their materials inside of the office rather than externally as they did before, which will help the SGA work more efficiently.
CAAS now occupies the old World Language Center in Tomson Hall. CAAS’s closer proximity to the Piper Center and Financial Office will benefit advisors’ efforts, Director of Advising and Academic Support Kathy Glampe said. Student usage of CAAS is up, which Glampe attributes to CAAS’s new location being more visible to students. The new space features four testing rooms and offices for each CAAS worker. The World Language Center has been dissolved and its services will now be offered through the Digital Scholarship Center at St. Olaf (DiSCO), according to the St. Olaf website.
The expansion of the Taylor Center and relocation of OSA and CAAS had been planned to occur in tandem for years.
Rand Hall underwent about $3 million worth of renovations, marking its first major update since its construction in 1981. The primary goal of the project was to combat the abundant and damaging humidity in Rand, a problem that has plagued the dorm since it first opened, according to Assistant Director of Facilities Kevin Larson. Workers installed three new air handlers, ducts that run through the ceilings and into individual rooms and power vent fans on top of the roof. Recent improvements in dehumidification technology made it possible for Rand to make these improvements. Along with better ventilation, Rand now features 100 percent LED lighting, new carpeting, and newly painted walls.
Another dehumidification and air conditioning system was installed in Skoglund Athletic Center to increase the traction of the gymnasium floor and make the climate more comfortable. Skoglund also received a new roof and general maintenance. The Theater Building saw classroom face-lifts and a Green Room expansion and re-carpeting. The Buntrock Commons parking lot was sealcoated and the Norway Valley Road was repaired.
St. Olaf’s Capital Improvement Fund pays for most campus renovations. As most of the academic buildings have been renovated over the past few years, projects in the near future will mainly target residence halls, Larson said.
“We’re trying to support the students, faculty, staff, guests and visitors to provide a clean and safe environment for them as much as we can,” Larson said.