Dear AU Community,
For decades, Anderson University students, faculty, staff, alumni, Trustees, Regents, Advisors, and Friends dreamed of a suitable student center.
As one long-serving retiree recently said, "we've been talking about a new student center for 40 years. It looks like it's finally going to become a reality."
This fall, it did.
The new, $26 million, 90,000-square-foot G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center was officially dedicated on October 29, 2016. Students began using the facility at the beginning of the school year as the sprawling new dining commons opened with meals ranging from a healthy Mongolian grille to wood-fired pizza and dozens of other options. The dining commons has been a big hit with students, faculty and staff.
One by one, other new facilities within the Student Center opened as a brand new fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, a new game room complete with TVs, pool tables and more, banquet facilities for up to 400 people, a movie theater with surround sound, a new bookstore called "AU Outfitters" and retail food centers featuring Chick-fil-A and Einstein Brothers Bagels came on line in September.
By October, student government, student development, career services and other offices were filled and students began greeting visitors in a brand new welcome center in front of a giant media wall. To say the Student Center has transformed life on the AU campus would be an understatement!
Recent Construction Update
Below you can read the background and story of our advancing construction, but here is the latest news on the projects:
- Summer 2015 witnessed the completion of three wonderful facilities – a new softball stadium, a new tennis center, and a new outdoor recreational swimming pool. All these facilities are located on the emerging Athletic Campus
Projects post-Thrift Library, 2007
The library was followed by the construction of five new residence halls to accommodate more students who want to live on campus. Concurrently, the University completed the renovation and refurbishment of numerous deferred maintenance projects that together represent the most significant season of campus improvement in decades.
G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center
A few years ago, we acquired 77 acres known then as the Anderson County Fairgrounds and known now as the Athletic Campus. About the same time, John and Marie Pracht gave us 125 contiguous acres. The two acquisitions nearly quadrupled the campus acreage for future expansion, and without them, a new student center would not be likely.
Yet after years of dreaming about a new student center and years of working to acquire the additional acreage, the student center's time finally came. It now serves the needs of our greatly enlarged student body. Our fundraising goal for the 90,000-square-foot facility was $15.2 million in the first phase. A second phase of fundraising began in the fall of 2016 for additional features we hope to add in coming months.
Evans P. Whitaker Ph.D.
G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center Q & A
Infrastructure Upgrades, Site Location and Campus Quadrangle
What construction preparations have already begun?
First, because the electrical and water systems are designed to serve the entire campus, we've been working on upgrades for the past few years to accommodate the new center and replace aging systems that would have eventually failed - even without a new student center. Most campus utilities are underground, so you would not likely notice the magnitude of these improvements, but collectively they are huge.
How did the Student Center construction come about?
A big part of getting ready for the new student center was selecting the location and preparing it. Two locations were considered – the site of the current student center, and the site of our present softball field. Architectural and engineering studies indicated that the best location was the softball field. It would eliminate demolition of the current student center and temporary relocation of functions within it, plus with campus space at a premium, it allows us to use the space for a few years after we are in the new student center.
Locating the new center on the softball field allowed us to pursue a long-range vision of creating an interior quadrangle that our campus has never enjoyed. In the not to distant future, the old student center and the Rice Building are scheduled to be demolished to make way for a brick plaza walkway lined with oak trees that will extend from Thrift Library to the rear of Abney Athletic Center. What was previously the kitchen area will be removed from the Merritt Building and a new façade will be added in much the same way an attractive façade was added to the rear of Vandiver Hall to provide an appropriate rear entrance into the School of Nursing. A new façade will also be added to Abney Athletic Center, along with an elevator. To see the wonderful new green space in front of the Student Center with it's water features and pathways lined with memorable quotes is to get a glimpse of how the entire interior of the campus will look one day.
The selection of the softball field for the site of the new student center also meant that we would need a new site at the Athletic Campus for a softball field and tennis courts, which were completed in 2015. A fountain plaza and additional green space have been added between the two buildings where one set of our former tennis courts were situated. The former site of our other tennis courts between Vandiver Hall and Sullivan Hall are the site of a future academic classroom and faculty office building that we hope to construct in a few years.
Is the University working on any other campus improvements?
Yes. A thriving campus is something of an unending construction and renovation project. During the student center construction, we carefully removed the radio tower to make way for green space. We also plan to continue to upgrade older residence halls in the order of the greatest needs.
Our Campus Master Plan also calls for the construction of additional residence hall space, parking, and academic space. An entire section of acreage is designated on the master plan near the Athletic Campus on Old Williamston Road for a University-owned, student apartment complex. All these things are dependent on resources, but the University is constantly anticipating the future needs of the campus and working to meet those needs. While it is too early to confirm due to ongoing negotiations, it is likely that a new campus apartment complex will be under construction while the student center is being built.
Student Center Amenities
What amenities in the G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center?
The amenities include:
- A 600-seat dining hall with traditional fare, pizza, Mongolian grill, and outdoor seating
- Chick-fil-A Express
- Einstein Bros Bagels (sandwiches, bagels, coffee)
- Student organization offices, meeting rooms, storage areas
- Fitness center with state-of-the art equipment (designated for general student body, non-athletic use)
- Aerobics studio
- High ceiling, natural-light atrium gathering space with two fireplaces plus lots of indoor hangout room
- Student Development Offices (Student Activities, Residence Life)
- 400-seat banquet hall that can be subdivided into smaller meeting spaces
- 400-seat multi-purpose tiered theater for movies, performances, lectures
- Lots of outdoor seating for eating and hanging out
- Global media center – the lobby will include two walls of live news from the world's leading news organizations
- Wireless throughout and lots of electrical outlets for charging mobile devices
Were students asked for input into the components and design of the new student center?
Yes. While it is not possible to involve every student, we sought student input into the design of the new center for four years prior to construction. The building was designed with the AU student in mind and to see the hub of campus life that it has become is proof the design was student-friendly and student-focused.
How has the student center improved campus life?
In multiple ways, but most notably by providing a building that is used as the "living room" of the campus. A huge improvement is the new dining commons and food prep area that allows Aramark to have the space and equipment to prepare a wider variety of foods and flavors. The new dining commons is twice the size of our former one. Also, students have the new fitness center to themselves, while athletic teams have a new fitness center of their own on the Athletic Campus. The new movie theater is great for student activities and will also provide one of many planned alternative locations for our revised chapel programs that will be in addition to Wednesday chapel.
Overall, the new student center has helped us accommodate our larger on-campus student body and serve as an essential addition of campus space in the sequence of other planned, campus improvements. The Center is packed with students from early in the morning until late at night as is always buzzing with activity.