The Importance of Student Spaces in Creating Community

This text was originally published in The McGregor Voice, Fall Issue 1

I could complain about the small student lounge haphazardly located on the second floor. I could complain about our ongoing lack of “the library.” I could argue about the ways in which the new building does or does not meet my needs as a student.
But I would be giving “the building” too much credit. Running on an “if you build it, they will come” mentality has left us heavy on style but shy in substance. This building, the original buildings, any building is but a shell. It is not the building that shall define us, it is what we do with and within it that will determine the nature of our experience and the quality of our education.
Upon entering the main doors I would expect to see a student space of chairs and tables rather than a cluster of neat merchandising of spirit wear and accessories. A central space—together with the outdoor area—where students get to know each other beyond the classroom.
I would like a space reserved for our use until the library is ready—a room apart from the lounge for study such as an empty classroom or meeting room where those of us who use the time to work can do so—apart from the smell of microwaved leftovers. Most importantly, I would like to see Antioch University McGregor designate an Office of Student Affairs which could serve as a home for the McGregor Voice and other (up and coming) student organizations, and could fulfill other student needs as they arise, such as study groups or special meetings. Ideally, the University could create a FWSP job or staff position to develop the Office of Student Affairs as a resource for all.
I choose to attend a liberal arts institution, and I am seeking a certain level of engagement with my peers. Though many of us are busy working professionals or juggling some number of other full time commitments, I think most of us enjoy the learning process and are “fed” by our shared experience in the classroom.
My own McGregor experience has been excellent in many ways: my instructors have been top-notch, engaging, and truly accessible. My classes have a synchronicity that is often surprising, and I have reveled in the interdisciplinary focus of the curriculum.
But in terms of student services and student leadership, this branch of the University is in its infancy. What are the needs of the McGregor student body? Does each program have it’s own culture? What do we have to offer each other?
What are the things one typically associates with a liberal arts education from a private university?
How about in-house scholarships that decrease the cost of attendance while offering incentive for student leadership, community involvement, and academic excellence?
How about student organizations that offer opportunity for involvement that fosters our learning and helps grow our resumes for future endeavors?
How about advanced opportunities for internships, and the ability to take advantage of curriculum or special programs at the other Antioch University branches?
It just might begin with a central student space, not because it is pretty and modern, but because we commuters may begin to sense that we are a community of students with a potential for creating whatever opportunity we desire—for our own advantage and for those who will come after us.