New and returning students of Dalhousie University’s Agricultural Campus were certainly in for a treat when they began classes earlier this month.
Students now have access to the new state-of-the-art Student Learning Commons (SLC) that’s focused on enhancing academic success. The SLC is being celebrated this week with a Grand Opening event as part of Dalhousie's 200th anniversary Coast-to-Coast tour.
The SLC, which is located in the recently vacated space above 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 will allow students to gather, relax and socialize. Bold colors stimulate creativity while the furniture is fresh and bright.
The large windows allow natural lighting and a 14-foot living wall welcomes you in the vestibule as you enter. Local artist and Manager of Indigenous Students at Dal AC, Art Stevens, created a mural marking the history of the Mi’Kmaq which has a large presence in the SLC and acknowledges the campuses student diversity.
“It is so rewarding to see a space like this come together to so perfectly meet the needs of our ever-changing student body,” says Dean and Campus Principal David Gray. “Our campus has long been in need of a central gathering space to help connect our campus community. This space is a beautiful as it is functional and would not have been possible without the generous support of our donors.”
A space for students
The SLC is designated as a place for relaxing, studying, socializing and accommodating the many varying needs of Dal students.
The self-serve Barley Café will provide students with the opportunity to refuel while studying, and a student meeting room, generously funded by Farm Credit Canada, is equipped with videoconferencing abilities. Large Program Rooms, which students are able to book, include integrated audio visual systems.
A Quiet Room and The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Hub will also be 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, a space like no other on campus.
“The MacRae Library Services Desk will move to the Student Learning Commons, providing circulation and reference services from a new service point,” says Elaine MacInnis, associate university librarian, Library Services, and head of MacRae Library, who played an instrumental part in the planning of the SLC. “The SLC focuses on students and is geared toward supporting their academic success.”
A collaborative effort
The need for a space like the SLC was raised by the students and identified during a Campus Master Planning Process. The entire project was a team effort with input from various members of the campus including the dean, the university librarian, Dal Libraries staff, Dalhousie Agricultural Students’ Association (DASA) and Student Success and Ancillary Services.
“Students need a place for informal learning outside of the classroom, particularly commuter students who spend long days on campus and need to complete their research and academic assignments between classes,” Elaine explains. “The SLC can be a gathering place and a ‘third place’ that complements time spent at home, work, and in the classroom.”
The SLC will also be home to the DASA offices, a move DASA President Scott Withrow is extremely excited about.
“This is a great move for DASA because it allows us to be more centralized on campus so we can have more outreach to all of the students,” Scott says. “The new location will also allow us the potential to host new events for the student body with the new expanded meeting spaces.”
While the informal learning space is aimed at students, staff and faculty are welcome as well. The SLC offers a more casual setting than the classroom. At the request of students, there will not be a lot of computers available to use in the SLC. Students felt their computer needs would be met in other areas of the MacRae Library and the campus. The SLC is designed to be a social and collaborative space and, for this reason, is not expected to be a quiet space.
“I am very excited to see this project come to completion and I am really looking forward to observing how the students use the space,” Elaine says. “I don’t believe there is a place on the Agricultural Campus that is quite like this.”
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