Technology and Student Life tied together in new center

STLCIt’s a living room. It’s a game room. No! It’s a technology center. It’s a learning space. But, that’s not all. It’s a dining hall, a post office, a gathering space, and a performance hall. It’s where Hendrix Odyssey experiences begin, where weekly Religious Life fellowship dinners occur, and where you go for a video conference with your study partner in China. It’s the new Student Life and Technology Center and it has quickly become the center of life on the Hendrix campus.

The $26 million building, the biggest capital project in the history of the College, opened in January when the students returned for the start of the spring semester.

A series of events were planned to introduce the Student Life and Technology Center (SLTC) to the campus and community. Events included an open house for the campus and another for the Conway community, plus a special meal prepared and served by Dining Services to celebrate the new kitchen and dining hall.

During the first week of classes, the Nannie Worsham Student Performance Hall was christened with four nights of performances and activities that drew more than 400 students to each event.

Shortly after the building opened, the Hendrix Board of Trustees and the Hendrix Alumni Association Board of Governors met in the SLTC and saw first-hand how students are enjoying the new space. The first off-campus group to use the facility was the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board which conducted its quarterly meeting in the SLTC at the end of January.

Students, faculty and staff were eager to check out the new building as the spring semester began. Now, it has become part of the daily routine and a convenient place for students to take advantage of services and programs on their way to the dining room for a meal or the post office to pick up their mail. That’s exactly what the building planners hoped would happen, according to Dr. Karla Carney-Hall, vice president for Student Affairs.

"The SLTC combines campus resources like Residence Life, Career Services, Academic Advising, Disability Services, Tutoring, and Multicultural and International Student Services to create a one-stop student service area for our growing student body," Dr. Carney-Hall said. "The SLTC represents our commitment to strong community, student-centeredness, engaged learning, and the future."

What's Inside

The SLTC includes the Oathout Technology Center designed for interactive group work, offices and work space for student organizations, programming areas for the Hendrix community, a café, game room, and post office on the first floor of the building. The second floor houses the new dining hall, kitchen, servery, and small dining rooms.

The Oathout Technology Center (OTC) is a vibrant, open computer center for both work and play. It includes computer workstations with space for several individuals to work together. The stations are configured in various ways from soft, comfortable seating with large flat panel displays mounted on the wall to more traditional computer-type desks with widescreen monitors. The software available includes creative suites for making presentations and videos. The workstations can also be used for electronic gaming.

The OTC also contains a small seminar-type classroom that houses the latest technology available in the Hendrix College classroom so students can practice presentations. The final component to the OTC is a video conference room, which can be used for multiple purposes, but is equipped with technology primarily for video conferences.

The college’s radio station, student newspaper offices, yearbook, and other student-related organizations are adjacent to the OTC. The area includes dedicated space for the Student Senate and for the Social Committee, including a work area and meeting space. In addition, conference rooms, seminar rooms and offices are scattered throughout the building.

The blend of high-tech with the warmth and character of a traditional campus center is a hit with students, according to Chance McDermott ’10, outgoing president of the Student Senate. Integrating technology into a public space is one way to keep social media from replacing face-to-face interaction, he said.

"I like being here, and everyone I’ve talked to does, too. The game room is packed with folks playing pool, air-hockey, and, my favorite, table tennis," McDermott said. "There are always students occupying the lounge and hanging out in the chairs in the back hallways."

Gathering student organizations together in the SLTC is also improving communication and collaboration, he said.

"The student organizations have spacious, yet integrated offices that allow us to communicate like neighbors," McDermott said. "I can’t tell you how important this will be for the smooth functioning of the major groups like Social and Media committees."

Many alumni have fond memories of good friends and fun times in Hulen Hall. McDermott believes today’s students are forming similar memories.

"I can already tell that the SLTC will be creating new friendships and strengthening old ones for a long time to come," he said.

Ubiquitous Technology

The SLTC is a different kind of student life center because of the level of technology that is distributed throughout the building. Hendrix President J. Timothy Cloyd said this integration of technology with activities of daily life reflects a cultural shift that has occurred over the past decade.

"We have a new generation of students for whom technology is ubiquitous. It has become part of the culture. It is how they play; it is part of their social network; part of their hobbies, their church and spiritual life. Technology is where connections are made," President Cloyd said.

"When Starbucks introduced WiFi it really hit me," President Cloyd continued. "What people really wanted was to take their laptop to the coffee shop and play games, drink their coffee and talk with friends. It was a place to see and be seen and the technology was just always there."

President Cloyd said that the need for a new student center was evident when he first joined the Hendrix staff in the mid-1990s as Vice President for Development. If, as planned at one time, a new student center had been built in the last decade, it would have been a radically different building, he said.

"Since 1996, there has been a revolution in technology," he said. "In 1996, the average cell phone weighed six pounds. We had bag phones and those huge ones with the battery in the trunk."

"The whole digital revolution created a democratization of technology. We used to have ‘keepers’ of technology. You had to check it out, take special care with it because it was so precious," President Cloyd continued. "We had people who knew how to use technology and those who didn’t. We still have people who really know how to use the technology, but almost everyone can at some level. My parents, who are in their eighties, have their laptop and send e-mail."

"Access to technology is access to knowledge. So, the digital revolution has democratized knowledge as well as technology. If knowledge is power and knowledge is democratized, then power is distributed everywhere," President Cloyd said. "People can create things today with a computer that only a few people with special equipment and experience could create a decade ago. That’s why I wanted the digital editing suite in the Oathout Technology Center. I wanted our students to have the power to create their own video projects – and post them on YouTube."

origin of the idea

Hendrix is the only institution in Arkansas to combine a student center with a technology center and one of the few in the nation. As planning for the building began, representatives of the College sought out other institutions where cutting-edge technology centers were housed in informal spaces.

"A group of Trustees went with me and others to visit Emory and Georgia Tech and Rollins College where they have technology centers. We hired the people who worked on the Cox Center at Emory to help us think through how to set up the Student Life and Technology Center," President Cloyd said. "We couldn’t select the new technology until right at the last minute because things are changing so fast. So, we built the infrastructure and planned the types of things we wanted, waiting until the very last minute to purchase the hardware and software … and I’m sure that some of the things we purchased a few months ago are already out of date."

More than a Living Room

"The SLTC is not just a living room. It is comfortable like a living room, but it is also a globalized space because of the technology," President Cloyd said.

He envisions a future where Hendrix students in the SLTC could participate in classes taught by professors at Heilongjiang University, our sister campus in China, using the video conference center.

  • Or, students in Dr. Jay McDaniel’s World Religions course could talk with a "virtual" classroom visitor about the practice of Buddhism in China.
  • Or, business students could connect through technology to work on joint projects with students in other countries, learning to work across cultural, distance, and language barriers in the same ways that business professionals do every day.

President Cloyd is talking with other presidents in the Associated Colleges of the South (a consortium of 16 of the best liberal arts colleges in the South, including Hendrix) about ways to use technology to collaborate to provide courses that wouldn’t be economically feasible for one institution to offer alone.

"We can do so much by combining resources … even hiring faculty together and cross-listing courses," President Cloyd said. "The technology offers the opportunity of connecting face-to-face with another human being and learning from them – no matter where they are."

A Commitment to the Future

Like most of the buildings at Hendrix, the Student Life and Technology Center has been funded by donations from alumni, parents and friends of the College, along with support from foundations and corporations. Funding the SLTC is one of the priorities of A Commitment to National Leadership: The Hendrix Campaign, the College’s $100 million fund-raising drive. The $26 million building is the largest component of the campaign, which ends in December 2010. Hendrix is currently working to raise the remaining funding for the SLTC by June 2010 to qualify for the $750,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation of Troy, Mich.

For more information about the campaign and the Kresge Challenge, turn to Page 47 or contact the Office of Advancement at 501.450.1223.

Hulen traditions live on in new cafeteria

The shiny surfaces and open layout of the new cafeteria have brought a modern flare to mealtimes at Hendrix. In addition to the Homestyle line and the grill, a "World’s Fare" station now offers traditional cuisine from around the world, and a fiery brick oven cooks up six varieties of pizza each day. But below the bells and whistles of the new cafeteria, the traditions from Hulen live on.

  • The cafeteria ladies still sing and clap as they present each student with a cake on his or her birthday. And the acoustics of the new dining room make the traditional birthday song ("Happy happy birthday, we’re really glad you came...") sound even louder.
  • Students rush to alert one another if a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies is ready at the dessert station.
  • The cafeteria continues to celebrate traditional theme lunches like Robert Burns Day, Rock & Roll Day and Outback Day.
  • Diners can choose from six flavors of ice cream and a table full of toppings every Thursday at the sundae bar.
  • Long lines form at the Homestyle station on Fridays at lunchtime, as folks wait anxiously for their chicken strips and macaroni and cheese.
  • Students, professors and community members gather for roast beef and breaded shrimp at Sunday brunch.
  • The staff is proud of how it responds to student requests. They continue to invite new recipes in the "Recipes from Home" box, and old suggestions like Ritzy Chicken have become Hendrix classics.
  • Students still celebrate if they find one of the rare, glitter-covered Disco Trays, which are said to bring good luck.

First ‘green’ building

The Student Life and Technology Center was constructed with environmentally friendly features with the goal of becoming the College’s first LEED-certified building. At press time, Hendrix had completed the documentation and application process and was expecting notification at any time of its LEED status.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the recognizable industry standard for sustainability. The U.S. Green Building Council program offers several levels of certification ranging from basic-level certification to platinum-level which represents the ultimate in environmental sustainability.

The College accrued points in five green design categories: sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Constructing the new SLTC as the College’s first green building is a natural outgrowth of the Hendrix community’s deep commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment. Much of the College’s building in recent years has been undertaken with respect for the impact of the construction on the environment, although this is the first time that Hendrix has applied for LEED certification.

A sustainable Odyssey

As an Odyssey project in the Special Project category, four Hendrix students designed and implemented an educational project to help the Hendrix community understand sustainability and the "green" aspects of the Student Life and Technology Center. The students prepared educational material that was used to create a Web site, video and brochure about the building’s green aspects.

Dr. Karla Carney-Hall, vice president for Student Affairs, and Dr. Joyce Hardin, professor of biology, were advisers for the student team, which included Taylor Kidd, Catherine Lilly, Lauren Ricci, and Alex Schroeller.

Designing and building a LEED-certified building requires careful planning, balancing philosophical commitment with the need to contain costs. Green features of the SLTC include:

  • Efficient fixtures such as sensor faucets, dual-flush toilets, and more sanitary waterless urinals will reduce Hendrix’s water consumption by more than 140,000 gallons, a reduction of almost 60 percent.
  • Drought-tolerant vegetation planted around the SLTC and a highly efficient drip irrigation system for watering and landscape maintenance.
  • A high efficiency filtration system and individual thermal and lighting controls to improve the health and well-being of occupants and visitors.
  • Using roofing material with a high solar reflectance index, a measure of the roof’s ability to reflect the light of the sun off the building, instead of absorbing it.
  • Diverting more than 75 percent of the total construction waste from landfills, including being the first in Arkansas to reuse ground gypsum wallboard (drywall) waste. The SLTC’s drywall waste became topsoil fill in the landscaping of The Village at Hendrix.
  • Building on an already developed site to reduce the building’s impact on the local environment.
  • Promoting use of alternative transportation by including easy access to bike racks and showering and changing facilities in the building and by designating specific parking spaces near the building for alternatively fueled cars.

For more information about the green features of the SLTC visit www.hendrix.edu/LEED.