WWCC to get new look with student-funded activity center

A remodel of the northeastern portion of the main building at the Clarkston branch of Walla Walla Community College will feature a new activity center for students. The $1.2 million project should be completed by mid-January.

Students at the Clarkston branch of Walla Walla Community College will soon have an activity center of their own in the main building on the campus.

A $1.2 million project funded by student fees will remodel two classrooms in the northeastern portion of the main building into a gathering space equipped with TVs, a charging station and pool and foosball tables.

The roughly 2,100-square-foot remodel will include the Student Government Association office, a study room and an updated adviser’s office and vending space. An about 1,500-square-foot area outside the building will also be remodeled into a partly covered patio area with seating.

The main building of the campus was constructed in 1987 and isn’t designed to meet the needs of today’s students, Chad Miltenberger, the dean of the Clarkston campus, said.

There’s a lobby with chairs and tables just past the front door of the building, but Carlie Schultz, the secretary of Student Life, said the space isn’t the greatest for those who are looking for a quiet place to study or hang out.

“The students decided we need something that’s bigger, because this is basically where we have been hanging out this whole time right here in this lobby,” Schultz said.

The money for the Clarkston project was collected over a five-year timespan through a student fee increase of $1 per credit. The self-imposed student fee money is separate from the Walla Walla-based college’s general education fund, which recently was slashed by $2.7 million because of declining student enrollment.

Student body president Emily Saltzberg said she thinks the updated space will make WWCC more appealing to students.

“With the budget cuts and whatnot, it can be a way that the school can entice more students to want to enroll,” Saltzberg said. “You can definitely foster a closer community (in a space like that.)”

Paul Boyd, the student government adviser, said conversations to create some type of activity center on campus started long before the fee increase was implemented. The nursing students at WWCC also pushed for a dedicated space where they can have a place to relax and study while going through the intense program, Boyd said.

“The comments from students about having a place to go, somewhere that they can get together with students, that’s been going on for a long time,” Boyd said.

Miltenberger said the updated space will enhance the student experience, but it also aims to serve the college’s mission of helping students graduate and accomplish their goals.

“There’s quite a bit of research that says environments like this on college campuses play a huge factor in the student experience, which leads to student success, which leads to retention, which leads to completion,” Miltenberger said.

Mangum Construction, of Clarkston, was awarded the bid for the project. The architecture firm is ALSC Architects, of Spokane.

The project is expected to be completed in mid-January, shortly after the winter quarter begins.

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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