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A Centering Moment

By: Mark Tarnacki

The best kind of energy attends new beginnings, and the late-summer arrival of a new class on campus coincided with the new beginning of Quad Commons and the Dion Family Student Center.

The soaring new complex, featuring a three-story 40,000- square-foot student center and a four-story 43,400-squarefoot residence hall, greeted the Class of 2017 and transfers when they pulled into campus with their families on August 22. Early arrivals enjoyed the singular honor of being first to inhabit and enjoy the attractive new facilities before upper level classmates arrived a few days later.

The new connected buildings sit in the middle of the traditional first-year residential quad that dates back half a century. But now old and new are all integrated into a seamless whole. Students can walk from all the quad dormitories into the new Dion Family Student Center without ever going outside.

"When the first students arrived in August the residence hall was finishing up with minor items and students were moving in on time," said the college's architect, Jim Farrington. The student center partially opened that day with the first and second floors, although the digital lounge on the first floor and fitness center opened incrementally in the following days or weeks. For students, it simply assured the fun of incremental fulfilled anticipation - a few times over: Einstein's Bagel and The Grille on the first floor near the main entrance were open for business from Day One, but the third floor remained closed until mid-September, when speaker events and social gatherings began happening there; and the 'monumental stair' (the center's large main architectural-element staircase) was finally usable October 1.

This year's students had the distinction of being first to have relaxed in a peaceful third-floor solarium study lounge with arched ceilings evocative of a cathedral architecture, or sink into comfy seats throughout; first to offer their own radio shows from a glass studio where their friends can walk by and interact; first on cold night to walk through a covered connector into the Student Center for a late-night Einstein's Bagel.

This year's students were the first class to hang out in the new residence hall's fourth-floor west-facing lounge with its great view of the Adirondacks and 300s field. They've been marveling at the high ceilings in the new resident hall bedrooms, cracking open brand new refrigerators and microwaves and appreciating being able to take an elevator to any floor including to the connector walkway to the Student Center.

In the Digital Lounge in the Dion Center, they were able to plug in computers, work on projects with friends or watch a private TV on earphones. They've also been the inaugural class to make regular trips along the new attractive diagonal brick paths through a new landscaped courtyard, past a showpiece lighted column backlit with stain-glass patterns, to Alliot Student Center.

The Quad Commons building project took 18 months and cost $30 million. It has been built with highest efficiency design, using energy modeling software to make best use of energy supply. The HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) systems use a geothermal heat pump system installed underground in front of the library.

Student feedback about the building project is overwhelmingly positive, staff and administrators report. "These buildings provide superb outside-the-classroom learning spaces and living spaces," said President Jack Neuhauser. "We are dedicated to providing our students a campus environment that nourishes intellectual and social growth."

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