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A Vision From Many Voices

Since 2014, student feedback has played a major role in shaping the design of the newly renovated Schine Student Center.

Students looking through a gallery of images of the proposed Schine Building changes.
In a fall 2017 pop-up session in Bird Library, students and other members of the University community view concepts for different areas of the Schine Student Center and provide feedback by posting sticky notes and writing comments. Photo courtesy of Mackey Mitchell Architects.

When Syracuse University students were asked to reimagine the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center, they didn’t hold back on their suggestions. They participated in a variety of engagement sessions, weighed in on architectural renderings and tested sample furniture. “It was important for us to get student feedback recognizing that this is a student space,” says Robert Hradsky, vice president for the student experience. “In particular, we wanted this to be seen as the students’ living room on campus, so they were intimately involved in every aspect of the planning and played a critical role in each step along the way.”

Based on student input, the renovated Schine Student Center features open and inviting spaces for relaxing, eating, studying and gathering, as well as a greater variety of dining options. The building also provides high-visibility locations for student-facing services and student organizations that will enhance collaboration. For instance, the newly designated Intercultural Collective area brings together the Office of Multicultural Affairs , the Disability Cultural Center and the LGBTQ Resource Center . The new Schine also pays homage to its past, preserving popular graffiti artwork and highlighting student firsts and student-led initiatives through a series of history panels. There’s room, too, for current students to contribute artwork and photography. A two-story video wall adorns the new atrium, and an abundance of outlets for charging satisfies a key student request.

Students had more influence on the space’s design and use than any building initiative in Syracuse University history, Hradsky says. The project’s genesis is the Campus Framework plan that targeted Schine for growth and renovation. A 2014 online survey by design firm Sasaki Associates collected more than 1,200 student responses, and feedback continued to pour in through a series of engagement opportunities that, over a three-year period, logged more than 1,700 interactions:

  • A fall 2017 feasibility study gathered over 1,000 responses through meetings with leaders of the Student Association (SA) and organizations, residence hall pizza parties and “graffiti wall” sessions that invited students to write or post sticky notes of their ideas.
  • A fall 2018 architectural rendering road show in three dining halls and the Schine atrium drew more than 500 responses on the building’s new design and dining options.
  • Fall 2019 and spring 2020 furniture-testing sessions, which included feedback surveys, collected upwards of 180 responses.

Hradsky has also met regularly with an advisory board of about 30 students. “Last year when we were heavy into planning and looking at programming for the building, we looked to that group to provide feedback on design elements, programming of spaces and how we would utilize the space,” he says.

Creating Connections

A major focus of the project was to create opportunities for connection among students—a safe, comfortable place where they can hang out and see and be seen, Hradsky says.

Throughout his undergraduate years, James Franco ’18 was an active member of the Student Association. He logged countless hours in Schine, working in the SA office, grabbing food in the dining area and studying and relaxing in the Panasci Lounge. “Syracuse will always be my home, but Schine especially,” says Franco, now a third-year student at George Washington University Law School.

James Franco portrait.
James Franco, Student Association president, 2017-18

As SA president in 2017-18, Franco participated in meetings with administrators and, with other student leaders, advocated for creating better spaces and visibility for student-focused services, which led to the new Intercultural Collective area. He also envisioned the new Schine as a “village green for a 21st-century university”—a central space that he likened to “an indoor Quad, where you can walk through, study, hang out, do whatever you want in a setting where you feel comfortable, safe, warm and productive, or where you can just have fun.”

Franco cites the valuable role of student organizations and believes their improved spaces will further enhance the student experience. “Many students’ first memories of college are going to be of the organizations they joined. They’ll remember meetings and the events, and it’s important for the organizations to have more space, because they are the heartbeat of the student pulse,” he says. “I’m excited for when I can come back to campus. It will be cool to walk in and see a student center that, whether it’s 8 a.m. or 8 p.m., is bustling with students.”

Homelike Comfort

Student leader speaks at a podium.
Angie Pati, Student Association vice president, 2017-18

As SA vice president in 2017-18, Angie Pati ’18 teamed up with Franco to ensure student opinions were represented in the process. Like Franco, she recognized that creating centralized space for the resource centers that are now part of the Intercultural Collective would be crucial for the students. “The Intercultural Collective being centered in Schine is very important to ensuring that students from historically marginalized communities know they have a home on campus, and they are an integral part of Syracuse University’s community,” says Pati, currently an investigator with the Children’s Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Pati also stresses Schine’s role as a hub where students from different backgrounds and areas of campus can interact, exchange ideas and opinions, learn from one another and expand their perceptions. “I think there’s great potential for this space, which has been mindfully developed to foster community where people can come together and grow. Your time at SU should challenge you to learn valuable lessons both inside and outside the classroom,” she says. “I hope that all students, no matter who they are or how they identify, will like the student center and feel like they can call it home.”

I hope that all students, no matter who they are or how they identify, will like the student center and feel like they can call it home.

—Angie Pati

New Space to Thrive

Two students pose for a photo.
2018-19 Student Association leaders Kyle Rosenblum (vice president) and Ghufran Salih (president)

As SA vice president from 2018-19, Kyle Rosenblum ’20 knew the Schine renovation was a priority. He and then-SA President Ghufran Salih ’20 helped connect administrators with student groups and leaders, and they encouraged the entire student body to participate in the feedback process. One concern they heard about Schine was that the spaces felt siloed—with student organizations, for example, located in the basement. “I remember people wishing there was greater connectivity, so I think that’s one of the biggest drawing points of the renovations,” says Rosenblum, a Schwarzman Scholar working remotely from Seoul, South Korea, on a master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “Layout matters so much in cultivating a space where people feel comfortable and where ideas can form and student groups can really thrive.”

He believes having a prominent, comfortable and open area will heighten students’ awareness of the multitude of organizations and create more opportunities for collaboration and creativity among groups. Rosenblum sees the new Schine as much more than a building that students just pass through. “It’s someplace where you can spend the whole day—you can do work there, meet up with friends, do group collaborations, host your student organization meetings,” he says. “It really is an entire building that can meet students’ daily needs in various ways.”

For Salih, it was crucial that the project welcome student input and incorporate the feedback. “The Schine Student Center is the core of many experiences for our students, whether it’s their first concert, a quiet study place, a quick bite to eat, or a place to relax and recharge between classes,” she said in a 2018 interview. “I am so unbelievably excited to see what this student center will become for the next generation of the Orange family.”

Now, it’s a reality and ready for students to settle in and experience it to the fullest. “I think students will be very excited when they see the new space—not only because it’s shiny and new, but because of the functionality and how they’ll be able to engage with it,” Hradsky says. “They’ll be blown away.”

Jay Cox

This story was published on .

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