by Nicole Fitzsimmons & Nicole Rodriguez, Staff Writer & Asst. Production Editor
The transformative renovations that began last summer on the first floor of Leo Hall are finally coming to a close. With few minor tasks left, students are beginning to utilize the new space of what was once known as the Leo Cafeteria and the entirety of the newly designed first floor.
The renovations to the first floor of Leo have changed the entire essence of what the floor once was. Besides the architectural design being completely modernized, the cafeteria is now home to four enclosed meeting rooms, a large lounge-like area in the middle, folding tables and chairs that can be set up for studying, and Google Jam Boards. Soon, there will also be microwaves and vending machines for student use. The area will be fully completed as soon as the permit for full occupancy is received.
Tim J. Ward, P.E., Dean of the School of Engineering, commented on the few minor changes left to be completed.
“There are some spaces there for some graduate students. The electrical and computer engineering graduate students used to have offices down there before it was gutted so we replaced those offices, and they haven’t moved in yet. So, it’s not quite done,” said Ward.
Renovating the first floor of Leo became a primary concern last May. Prior to the remodeling of the Leo Cafeteria, administration prioritized work done on the laboratories on the first floor. It was urgent that these be completed by the beginning of the semester as they needed to be used for classes. Following their completion, the work on the cafeteria began as fast as possible.
In just a few months, the entirety of the first floor has been altered into what it is now. Walking down the halls, there are full windows that allow people passing by to look into the laboratories where they can see students working. What students described as once dark and dull hallways are now bright and encouraging.
Once you arrive at the doors of the former cafeteria, students can be seen in groups studying in one of the meeting rooms with the new Jam Boards or using the fold-up tables to study.
The Jam Boards are a new piece of technology that students can utilize in the meeting rooms to study. They are electronic boards that can be written on, much like a white board, yet are used with the touch of a finger.’
Senior Juliette Rodrigues shared her thoughts on the renovations and the use of new technology within the space.
“I think the space is really nice and the fact that they have the Jam Boards in the study rooms for full accessibility, I think that’s amazing. I’ve already used them to study, it’s great… It’s already set up, you just go, you can use your fingers to draw on it, or you can use a stylus to draw on it. It’s so easy and it’s so accessible for all of the students,” said Rodrigues.
The inspiration for renovations came from the need for a new study space following the demolishment of the former Fishbach Room due to the college moving their environmental engineering labs, the biggest set of labs on campus, from the third to the fourth floor.
Leo Cafeteria was already being used by students to study or wait between classes. However, all food services were moved out of the cafeteria when Kelly Commons was built in 2014.
This left Leo Cafeteria as simply a large unrenovated space for students to study and inspired administration.
“We knew that we needed some replacement space for Fishbach, and that we were going to replace the space for Fishbach someplace in the building… But we needed some space for students right now, some nice new space. So, we decided to renovate the cafeteria area and that’s what was done this summer,” said Ward.
Another issue that arose from the destruction of Fishbach on the fourth floor was that the area for Society of Women Engineers, SWE, had to be demolished as well. This was alarming for Dean Ward and his office.
“Obviously, it’s important to the school of engineering to make sure our female engineers realize this is a welcoming environment,” said Ward.
He made a commitment to create a new space primarily for the college’s women engineers and both male and female SWE members to come together once the space on the first floor was completed.
“Many of us, including myself, made a commitment that we would do what we can within our power to make the profession more accepting…. That’s the philosophy I have here and making sure that the SWE had space was important,” he continued.
The uses of the new space are key to Leo Hall and Manhattan College as a whole. Though it is not completely done yet, students are already making use of the new areas provided to them, along with the rest of the first floor.
As she sat and studied in the new area for women engineers, senior Christina Raguso expressed her joy about the opening of Leo Cafeteria.
“It’s been very drastic, in such a good way. I mean, I used to use the cafeteria a lot because it was a good quiet place with a lot of table space… Now that Fishbach is gone we are really happy that this place is open now for us to use. We really needed this, it gives our school a nice look now,” said Raguso.
In the future, Dean Ward sees the space being very convenient for commuter students, and used as study and student gathering spaces. He also believes that the space can be used for advising purposes during registration.
Students and faculty combined are excited about being able to fully utilize the first floor of Leo in all of its capacity through new places to enrich their learning and new technology to enhance the manner in which they learn.