GVSU construction continues with Student Services addition, plans for learning spaces

By Theresa Mueller | 9/13/17 9:30pm

GVL Hannah Hill Construction begins on the student services building on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. The new expansion will include a reception area as well as meeting rooms for prospective students.

Three weeks into the fall 2017 semester, Grand Valley State University students, faculty and staff are back in full swing for the academic year. As the masses of students occupy the campus grounds again, construction crews consequently follow.

Likewise, the facilities planning department at GVSU is always in full operation. Every school year, there are new opportunities to address improvements for the functioning of campus. 

The facilities planning department attempts to complete the bulk of its construction during the summer months when fewer people are around. However, with the consistent need for improvement for GVSU facilities, working during fall and winter semesters is unavoidable. 

“University capital improvements is an ongoing process," said James Moyer, associate vice president for facilities planning, via email. "Each year, we undertake more (than) 70 projects of various sizes and costs. This level of effort is necessary to keep the university on pace with the technology growth; the demands of the student population; to avoid building (obsolescence); and to keep the campuses an attractive alternative for existing and potential students, existing and potential faculty/employees and other potential employees."

When it comes to determining which projects to undertake on campus, there are no “nice-to-have” projects, as Moyer refers to them. 

The size of each project often varies. One considerable project that began last week includes additions to the Student Services building on GVSU's Allendale Campus intended to aid the recruitment process.

Over the last 20 years, the Admissions Office has functioned out of a small room, which allows for 40 occupants. Since 1995, the meeting room in the Student Services building was built to accommodate what was then 1,860 incoming freshmen. Despite the growing numbers of GVSU’s incoming classes (4,380 students in 2016 and 4,185 in 2017), the office space available to prospective students and families has remained the same. The number of visitors exceeds 10,000 on an annual basis. 

To accommodate the large mass of prospective students, GVSU admissions staff often move beyond the walls of the Student Services building by occupying whatever classrooms may be available.

Increasing numbers of prospective students and a lack of centrality for visitors have brought various challenges over the years, as classroom availability during the school year is increasingly limited.

“Having a well-defined space to support the student visits allows the university staff a better platform to address the students, their parents and advisers," Moyer said. "It also provides an opportunity for interaction with the many potential students at any age level." 

GVL Hannah Hill Construction is underway at the student services building on Tuesday, Sept. 11th, 2017. The new addition will include a reception area, as well as meeting rooms for prospective students.

The project for the Student Services building includes a 5,500-square-foot addition on the southwest side of the building. Features of the addition include a larger meeting room for prospective students and their families, which will now seat 112 occupants. There will also be a reception lobby with interactive displays, a pre-function area and two breakout meeting rooms for private meetings. 

The expected completion of the project is the end of January 2018 or early February 2018. In the meantime, admissions staff will carry on the strategic planning with little disturbance from the construction process.

“The university does a great job of limiting (interference) with working staff,” said Jodi Chycinski, director of admissions.

The construction is unlikely to inconvenience campus-goers too much, as it occupies a large green space with only  one closed-off sidewalk; pedestrians can easily maneuver their way around.

There are other upcoming and recently completed projects at GVSU as well:

Ravines reconstruction under Little Mac Bridge

This project was completed in the summer to address issues of erosion but continues to be monitored for any deficiencies. Thus far, the project has proved to be sufficient, as it has withstood several summer rains.

Additional learning space 

This project will not begin until the spring of 2018. The 180,000-square-foot project will include expansions on the library, additional classrooms, specialized labs, research spaces, student study spaces and computer labs. It will be funded by the state of Michigan and GVSU. Once this project is underway, it will not be completed until May 2021. 

As these projects continue, campus concerns stay the same: safety and disturbing learning activities as little as possible. 

“Our biggest concern is always safety," said Scott Whisler, facilities planning project manager. "We need to keep the campus population safe while still allowing construction traffic to access the site."

“We alter our project sequences to avoid as much student impact as possible,” Moyer said. 

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