By KIRBY MCMAHON
This year Mount Mary College encountered many physical and structural changes to its campus grounds and buildings in an attempt to refresh and renew the school’s appeal and functionality.
In August 2010, a new strategic plan called Operation Refresh allowed the college community to come together and discuss Mount Mary’s future. The plan outlines detailed goals in a variety of categories: academic excellence, community impact, financial vitality, student success and, most visibly, campus renewal.
According to the Mount Mary website, the plan aims to blend new construction with older structures seamlessly, in order to respect Mount Mary’s long-standing tradition and legacy while responding to emerging student and faculty needs.
The plan created multiple stylish and practical upgrades. These include the first floor of Haggerty Library, the North Dining Hall, the kitchenettes and lounges on all three floors of Caroline Hall and multiple classrooms in Notre Dame Hall, as well as enhancing the Student Success Center, located on the first floor of the Haggerty Library.
Reyes Gonzalez, vice president of finance and administration and CFO, believes the changes are vital to the college’s future success.
“Our focus in implementing the structural changes has been to enhance the learning experience of students,” Gonzalez said. “To that end, the renovation of the Learning
Commons and the classrooms as well as the installation of wireless hot spots, should have the greatest positive impact on the learning experience of students.”
Mount Mary’s students and professors recognize the changes and embrace them.
“Everything they’ve done so far has been great and beneficial for students,” said Ashley Leverenz, a senior justice major. “I do favor the addition of Parkway Grill because it’s a great place to study and eat. It stays open longer than the regular dining halls, giving students a bigger time frame to get food in a hurry.”
Sister Ellen Lorenz, professor and adviser in the education department, also had a hard time narrowing down her favorite campus upgrade.
“I think the updated classrooms are providing not just a more attractive setting in which to learn but also more convenient access to the many uses of technology for teaching and learning,” Lorenz said. “At the same time, I think the Student Success Center has greatly enhanced student support services.”
According to the Executive Summary of the Mount Mary College Self-Study, Operation Refresh is not finished. In 2012, the board of trustees reviewed a preliminary master plan for the physical campus that will assist Mount Mary in planning additions and changes for the next 20 years.
“Many of the changes proposed in Operation Refresh have already taken place, the most recent being the remodeling of the Alumnae Dining Room and the hallways in the residence hall,” Gonzalez said. “The college plans to continue to implement its strategic plan as new funding becomes available, but at this point it does not have immediate plans for additional major facility changes. Rather, the college is planning the installation of new signage for the transition from college to university.”
The college also plans to renovate five classrooms per year until all are up-to-date aesthetically and technologically.
Mount Mary students and faculty have their own opinions on what should be renovated next.
Lorenz hopes to see the child care center expanded since Mount Mary includes many non-traditional students who have families, but she also has big dreams for one forgotten campus building.
“I would like to see the theater updated, so that it could again provide cultural experiences for the students and for the wider community,” Lorenz said. “To see, hear and interact with a wide range of prominent people in various fields and to witness live performances should be a part of everyone’s education.”
Operation Refresh also aimed to improve the college’s technology. Students agree updating Mount Mary’s technology and Wi-Fi is a necessity.
“I think it would be great to have some technological updates on campus,” Leverenz said. “It would be helpful for traditional students who are used to everything modern and changing so quickly, while also helping non-traditional students, who may not be so up-to-date with everything, get caught up to where the rest of the world is technologically.”
Sarah McVey, a senior and fine arts student, also expressed concerns related to the Wi-Fi.
“Our wireless connection is a joke and half of the tech staff doesn’t know how to help Mac users,” McVey said. “We need to become more Mac and Internet friendly here. I should be able to access the Internet wirelessly from any room on campus, but I can’t.”
According to Gonzalez, the college has been rewired to facilitate the installation of new technology in the future. Wireless hot spots have been installed in the Cyber Café, the residence hall, the Learning Commons, the Alumnae Dining Hall, and the Crossroads. Nine classrooms have been equipped with new technology, such as lecture capture. In addition, a lab for demonstrative teaching has been equipped with the latest technology to assist in and enhance teaching.
Gonzalez is enthusiastic about the changes inspired by Operation Refresh.
“New, bright, inviting spaces should increase student satisfaction,” Gonzalez said. “More importantly, all of the work that is done is performed with the intention of enhancing the learning experience and success of current and future students. If the learning experience is enhanced, it may result in attracting more students to Mount Mary.”