With the semester winding to a close, it has been almost a full academic year since the opening of the Raymond Kelly Student Commons.
The new, state-of-the-art, building features a new fitness center, dining options and meeting spaces for students and faculty.
The commons is also the first building at Manhattan College to receive a LEED certification, making it the most sustainable and environmentally friendly structure on campus.
But as with any change, the commons has taken some getting used to.
“It takes a while on a new building to shake everything out, so to speak,” Richard Satterlee, vice president for student life, said.
The idea for the commons began with the desire to shift Manhattan College from a school with a high commuter population to a more residential institution. In order to do so, the college built new dorms, such as Lee Hall in 2008, and the parking garage, but there was still a missing piece.
“We became majority residential, and we had the bedroom space in our house but not the living room space,” Satterlee said.
Since its opening, the commons has provided students with such a casual gathering space and is the new home for many of the campus’s clubs and organizations, including Student Activities, the Multicultural Center and the Social Action Suite.
John Bennett, the director of student activities, believes that all clubs have benefited from the opening of the building, but there are still some growing pains.
“Down the road, we have to figure out the ebbs and flows of the building itself, but it’s definitely better today than it was in the beginning of the school year” Bennett said.
The commons sees most of its action during the two activity periods: Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday at noon.
Club spaces at the end of the hall on the fourth floor are always open and do not need to be requested. However, if a club wants to use a conference room or the Great Room, they must put in a request in advance.
“When the general manager of the Yankees came to campus, or the fraternities and sororities put on an event in those rooms, it attracts a lot of students and attention,” Bennett said.
The first and second floors have a constant flow of students because of dining services, especially Starbucks, and the campus bookstore. With the recent opening of the game room, the first floor will only get busier.
“It’s always packed when I come here in between classes during the day,” junior Lauren Sciarrotto said. “I didn’t realize what the school was missing as a freshman and sophomore, but now I cannot picture the school without the Kelly Commons,” she said.
While the second floor is often a quieter space used for studying, the social action suite is beginning to show a lot of life.
“It’s a visible symbol of things that we really think are an important part of campus and student life,” Satterlee said. “Before it was less noticeable, so it’s been a really good shot in the arm.”
Another installment of the commons that has been a big success is the new fitness center located on the third floor. Previously, the only gym on campus was located in Draddy Gymnasium.
“The athletes were being shortchanged and the rest of the student body was being shortchanged, so having the new fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment provides a great service and opportunity for students,” Vice President of Facilities Andrew Ryan said.
Chris Policastro, director of the fitness center, has initiated new programs that will encourage students to exercise and partner with nutritionists at Gourmet Dining. Policastro is also training students to teach yoga and other classes in the mini gym.
The commons has also provided a link between the schools’ north and south campuses.
“Now you’ve got a stop-off point in the middle for socialization,” Ryan said. “Learning does not just happen in two campuses, learning also happens in an environment like this.”
The commons may only be a year old, but students and faculty are already thinking about its role in the future.
“I would love to see more events that will attract all different people from the school,” Sciarrotto said.
He said one of the best parts about the commons is that it allows students to make it what they want going forward.
“The flexibility of the building and the opportunity for great programming leaves it open to students to do what they want,” Satterlee said.