Students lead the way on campus improvements
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Over the summer, Niagara University implemented numerous changes in an effort to enhance the lives and learning experiences of its students. Students teamed up with administration to lead the way on these important innovations. Many areas of campus have been transformed, providing more places to socialize, cozier living environments, and easier ways to travel from building to building.
Jason Jakubowski, Dean of Students, started meeting with different student-led groups at the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester. This was the beginning of discussions that led to the planning process for various changes that took place this summer. By April, plans were being organized and implemented. Work was completed between May and August so that major developments would be ready in time for the new school year.
“I partnered with NUSGA, the Residence Hall Association, and other groups of students to critically look at student engagement,” Jakubowski explained. “One of the university’s strategic priorities is the student experience. Our primary focus in discovering what we wanted to improve was figuring out how to enhance student involvement on campus.”
In order to improve the student experience here at NU, the Seton lounge was completely redone with new furniture, paint, flooring, lighting, and recreational equipment. The new setup is being used as a model for future resident hall improvements. Other halls were also looked at, with new furniture in both O’Shea and Clet. In addition, elevator controls have been put into place in the towers. Students now must swipe to access the elevator and stairs, which is meant to give them more of a sense of comfort and security.
Innovations also took place in the buildings on the opposite side of campus. Students living in Lynch or O’Donoughue now have the ability of entering and exiting through the doors on the west end, allowing them to easily access the lawn area overlooking the gorge. Wifi signals have also been strengthened in this area.
In addition to residence halls, other buildings on campus have been improved. The Gallagher Center also has brand new furniture. The Clet Dining Commons has completed its renovations with an outdoor patio. Administrators are looking to improve the Rathskeller, which will become a university catering space. They are working with Metz to use the Dining Commons for larger scale events, like football Sundays.
There is also a new sidewalk connecting Seton and Golisano, with lighting for the path coming by the end of the month. There is also a fire pit coming to the patio outside of Dunleavy, which will be operated by swiping an NU ID card and will be a space for students to relax, socialize, and feel at home. In addition to enhancing the overall student experience, Jakubowski discussed another goal in making all of these changes: keeping upperclassmen on campus.
“So many students live on campus for their first couple of years and then move off,” he said. “We want them here and engaged because they are our investment. Upperclassmen are a valuable group to our campus because they are able to show freshmen and sophomores what it takes to be successful. We want to bring them back to preserve the transfer of knowledge and peer-to-peer learning.”
Jakubowski also mentioned that NUSGA has been very instrumental in not only being a platform for students to voice their ideas and concerns, but also to get information out to students through social media. The organization has big plans for this year.
“NUSGA is looking at an app to inform students of important news and events,” Jakubowski said. “One of our biggest challenges is that we have so much happening, but so few people know about it. Hopefully, with an app, the gap of communication that currently exists will no longer be an issue. We are used to putting up posters and flyers and updating our website, but maybe we can go ahead and communicate with our students in ways that they prefer.”
Jakubowski emphasized that the changes did not originate with him. They were led by students who took an active interest in their school and came to him with their ideas. In addition to NUSGA and the Residence Hall Association, he has had discussions with the Student Athletic Advisory and multicultural clubs and organizations.
“We are in process of putting together a working group through NUSGA and RHA for next year’s improvements,” he explained. “I’m excited to work more with students. The conversations are always helpful and productive. If students are not involved in specific organizations I meet with, they are always free to come to my office to discuss their ideas with me personally.”
New improvements are already in the works. The Offices of Campus Activities and Multicultural Affairs are planning some large-scale events to engage students who live off campus with on-campus students. More furniture additions are being considered in Lynch as well as floor and carpet improvements across the entire campus. NUSGA is also planning on developing a gym in the basement of Lynch, so that students do not have to trek all the way to Kiernan in the winter.
“There’s a general spirit of contributing to improving the student experience here on campus,” Jakubowski remarked. “I think everyone at Niagara is excited about what is being done. We have momentum right now, and I can’t wait to see what else we accomplish.”
Students are encouraged to visit Jakubowski’s office in the lower level of Gallagher Center if they have any ideas for improvement, as well as to talk to their NUSGA representatives. With all the enthusiasm over the current developments, it is an exciting time for students to make their voices heard.