Trading Spaces: Student Services Move, New STEM Building a Future Possibility

Over the next few months the first phase of Manhattan College’s master plan will be implemented when several student services offices move into the now-vacant Dante’s Den, a former cafeteria located in Thomas Hall. The master plan, completed in June, also includes ambitious plans to revamp STEM facilities on south campus.

Dante’s Den, which used to be buzzing with students grabbing a snack or studying, fell quiet last fall when it was closed to accommodate the new dining options in the Kelly Commons. But the vacant space will see new life over the course of this year as several student services offices move in.

These offices include the Office of Academic Support, Graduate Admissions, Student Financial Aid, and the Centers for Career Development and Graduate School and Fellowship Advisement.

The vision for the space is a more visible hub of student services.

“The space that was available there [in Dante’s] was very large space and centrally located,” Andrew Ryan, vice president of facilities, said. “There are probably times when people did not utilize those services because of their locations.”

Currently, these student services offices are scattered amongst academic and administrative buildings across campus. In Miguel Hall alone, several student services offices are split between the basement and the fifth floor of the same building.

“It’s going to help what we do,” Rachel Cirelli, director of the Center for Career Development, said of the move to the new space. “I think our office is an underutilized resource.”

Cirelli also said the additional, renovated space her office will gain in the move will present a more professional image to potential employers who often pay visits to the Center of Career Development.

The master plan also kicked off a STEM study, a campus-wide analysis of what facilities upgrades are necessary for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs offered at the college. Ryan said the study will look at which areas need to be upgraded, how personnel and departments will be reshuffled and where these STEM programs are headed in the future.

The results of the study will determine what new facilities are needed and how current facilities will best be repurposed or enhanced for the college’s STEM programs.

Tim Ward, dean of the School of Engineering, sat on the advisory committee for the campus master plan and calls the possible upgrades a “major project.”

Feasibility studies are also being conducted to determine what some of these upgrades will cost and what is financially possible. Right now, Ward said that possibilities include building a new 30,000 square foot STEM building to replace the current Leo Building parking lot, constructing student dormitories where the Physical Plant building is currently located and remodeling both Leo and RLC.

“The college recognizes that improving the facilities down here will not only aid in engineering but aid in trying to build our science area and the rest of the STEM,” Ward said of the master plan. “[It would] also add more for the entire campus, for having a more connected campus and more uniform campus all the way across. It’s not just for engineering students, but it’s for all the students on campus.”

Ryan said that pending the approval and feasibility of the plan, the goal is to have a new STEM building built and operational on south campus by 2020.

“We do not have a campaign yet. We are trying to build some excitement over it,” Ward said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”