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Build it and they will come

Posted by stephanie Rogers on December 19, 2022 in News
Thew new Student Learning Commons on the top floor of the MacRae Library
Thew new Student Learning Commons on the top floor of the MacRae Library

Four years after the new Student Learning Commons (SLC) was officially opened in September 2018, it has become the heart of campus, more than fulfilling its purpose as a place for relaxing, studying, socializing, and accommodating the many varying needs of Dalhousie Agricultural campus students.

Its completion was serendipitous after a significant fire had just destroyed the East Wing of Cox Institute in June of that same year. The large Program Rooms immediately met the needs of students for temporary classroom space for the subsequent two years and functioned perfectly for this unintended purpose.

“We could not be more pleased with the response from students, staff, and faculty to this new space,” said Elaine MacInnes.  “Students have really embraced the SLC, and we love the energy that comes with all the various student-focused events that we are able to host in the space.”

The SLC, located on the top floor of the MacRae Library, is a mix of open spaces with a modern yet cozy atmosphere. Soft seating for reading, tables for working and bookable study rooms of varying sizes allow students to gather, relax, learn collaboratively, and socialize. Bold colors stimulate creativity while flexible furniture is fresh and bright. The large windows allow natural lighting, and a 14-foot living wall purifies the air and welcomes visitors as they enter. An original mural, designed by Art Stevens, marking the history of the Mi’gmaq has a large presence in the SLC and acknowledges the campus’ student diversity.

The Indigenous Student Collective lost their initial space in East Cox and has made great use of the new space in the CIBC Multicultural Centre for smudging, Awtiket summer camps, and as gathering space.

“Our Indigenous students really feel at home in the SLC,” said Keah Glode, Manager of Indigenous Students.  “We often use this space for campus events and to host various special events, including orange shirt day. Our displays for these special events are often showcased by the wonderful staff and seeing that representation makes our Indigenous students very prideful. We have started an Indigenous Mentorship program with Sunday evening study meetings and the students have suggested using the SLC because of the high level of comfort they have in this space.”

The bookable meeting rooms and event spaces are in heavy demand - from thesis defences, career fairs, exam accommodations and even as a pre-event space for summer Convocation this past July, the SLC has become a gathering space on campus for the entire community.

“A university experience is far more than what happens in the classroom or laboratory – it’s getting to meet and work with people from different backgrounds, cultures and countries,” explained Dean David Gray. “Our fantastic Student Learning Commons space was designed to facilitate and nurture student collaboration, and feedback shows it is truly appreciated by students and staff alike.”

The Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association (DASA) offices draw students in for society meetings, Meet the Dean events and more.  Faculty members mingle with students and grab a snack on their way to meetings and classes.

“Since merging with Dal, DASA has been provided with a beautiful new space in the Student Learning Commons (SLC), said Allyson Briggs, its 2022-23 president. “This space not only provides our executives an area to fulfill their day-to-day tasks, but also an area for students to relax and spend time with their fellow aggies. The DASA lounge is a safe space where students can go to seek answers with respect to anything happening on campus, buy tickets for ‘The Barn’, or even catch one of our ‘Meet the Dean’ events,” she added.

Large Program Rooms, which students can book, include integrated audio-visual systems. A Quiet Room and The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Hub are also located in the CIBC Multicultural Centre within the SLC. In the washroom adjacent to the Multicultural Centre there is an ablution station for ritual purification before prayer.

Every inch of the 14,000 square feet of space has been utilized including the lobby which has now become bookable space for fairs, sales, and external bookings throughout the summer months.