Student organization leaders returning to campus this week will find themselves holding meetings in new rooms in a usual space. The Office of Student Involvement completed substantial renovations to its existing Involvement Suite on the third floor of the Student Center.
New furniture, meeting pods and new areas for conferencing are some of the most noticeable changes.
John Michael Roehm, assistant director of Student Involvement, said the renovations were a much needed facelift for the suite, which he said was beginning to feel dated.
“We entered 2020 and left the late ’90s: that’s the biggest difference,” Roehm said with a laugh. “Cool patterns and less pops of color.”
The front desk at the entrance of the suite received a remodel in that it was moved closer to the entrance and to one side of a supporting column that previously obstructed visitors’ view of the desk. Roehm said he hopes the reconstructed desk will be more enticing to those stopping by, while at the same time providing more space for a Student Involvement Ambassador desk, which is new to the lobby.
“We wanted to intentionally build some storage for us but also when you walk in, be met with a welcoming face,” he said. “We want students, when they do enter, to be able to be welcomed, and if they have questions, see an Involvement Ambassador.”
Visitors must now also check in as they step into the lobby via the use of a QR code linked to AUInvolve. This idea was included during planning stages of the renovations before COVID-19 impacted Auburn, but Roehm said it will prove particularly useful because of the nature of this semester.
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Some of the most significant changes came to the suite’s collaborative workspace area, a 10,300-square foot room where select student activity organizations have designated workstations and others have a place to hold meetings. Previously, the area was comprised of a number of cubicles and narrow corridors, but Student Involvement took a more open, modern approach to its redesign, eliminating both in the renovations.
“This is completely reimagined,” Roehm said. “We’ve added six semi-private meeting pods for student orgs to check out at our front desk to have a quick meeting; ideally that’ll fit six people.”
Each meeting pod is a glass-enclosed space that features wireless streaming to PC and mobile devices using the same software as in Mell in place of Apple TVs and HDMI cords that were used before, Roehm said. Window blinds will be added to the glass in the pods in the future to allow meetings some privacy.
The previous cubicles, which were often used by groups for storage, have been replaced with individual work desks for groups considered student activity organizations by request. Student Involvement hopes to allow different organizations to receive workstation assignments each academic year, Roehm said.
“[The desks] have minimal space; you come to the station to work on your personal or organizational computer,” he said. “These are meant to have office supplies, things you need to do to get your job done, not where you store your event supplies.”
Additional storage has instead been set aside on one side of the room, formerly a hallway, for any group to put away items needed the week of an event and heavier items in sliding door closets. Copiers are also available for groups to use when drafting organizational paperwork.
Conference Rooms A and B have seen slight modifications in their layout. Each is now equipped with video conferencing technology using Zoom, which Roehm said was another pre-pandemic idea that will now pay off. Segments of the large table in Room B can be folded up like an easel for workshop-style use.
“If [Auburn University] Dance Marathon needs to film themselves doing the line dance, they can move the tables out, they can film the dance and they can move them back,” Roehm said of the folding design.
Roehm said Student Involvement is most excited to bring what it calls the “Think Tank” to the suite, taking the place of what was once the University Program Council executive office. The Think Tank is a third conference room made up of fully dry-erase board walls with cushiony seating with charging ports, designed with longer brainstorming sessions in mind.
“What we envisioned this place as is if a group is planning a big event, and they need to get out of the conference and they need to get a TV to project some things, they can get on the whiteboard and think creative and really be innovative about what they’re doing,” Roehm said. “We know when our students go into corporate America outside Auburn, all these big companies ... have these big informal meeting spaces.”
The suite’s revamp took around two years from early on the drawing board to completion according to Roehm. A side effect of the University’s transition to remote instruction in the spring, however, was that construction finished ahead of schedule.
“We had a conversation with the team, January maybe, about figuring out if the suite had to close and if staff would work remotely,” Roehm said. “[We thought], ‘How are we going to do that?’ Then, three months later, we went entirely remote. It allowed the construction team to have full access to the space.”
While Student Involvement is eager to share the suite’s upgrades, for now, the Involvement Suite is under a 52-person occupancy limit in compliance with the University’s coronavirus guidelines, Roehm said.
“We really need students working on organizational activities because 52 people is not many, especially in a space that typically sees 200 [to] 300 people a day or more,” he said. “That’s the big change we’re going to be asking students to really [follow]: when they’re here, to be working on an organizational activity.”
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