Officials at Mitchell Technical Institute are looking to add an improved student lounge to their campus with the hope of beginning renovation for the project in 2020.
The school, which has over 1,100 full- and part-time students enrolled, has been considering the move over the last several years as construction and upgrades have expanded the facilities and services available to students and staff.
“When we built the new campus, it was evident that we put a lot of resources into classrooms and labs, but not necessarily a place for students to hang out except for the large common areas,” said Julie Brookbank, associate to the president of MTI.
Brookbank said the current student lounge area, located in the MTI Campus Center, is already a spot where students gather to unwind or play pool, but the hours it is open is limited and there isn’t enough space for people to spread out around a table for games and other activities.
She said school officials worked with students to take a survey on what changes or additions they would like to see on campus. The results came back strongly in favor of expanding the student lounge area to allow it to accommodate larger groups and longer hours.
“One thing that floated to the top is that they’d like to have a larger, friendlier, open setting where they could get together and watch movies, play games, all the things that students like to do,” Brookbank said. “That’s where the idea came from.”
Brookbank said school officials considered locations around campus for such a lounge when they realized there was a space at the Muth Electric Technology Center that wasn’t being used to its full potential. Plans were developed to transform the front part of the lobby of the building into an improved student lounge area.
“We have a large common area at the (center) which is the front lobby. It’s not really utilized and it’s cold and sterile,” Brookbank said. “So President (Mark) Wilson and the facilities staff started looking at it, and thought it would be great if there was a way to renovate this space and make it into a new desirable lounge area.”
The new lounge would allow greater access and security for students who utilize it, Brookbank said. Access would be available to the new lounge 24 hours a day through the use of keycards, and cameras would provide an extra level of security for those who visit. She said by charter, technical schools cannot house students on campus or have a student union, but the need for an adequate social space is still there.
“It would be fun for them to have a space on campus after hours,” Brookbank said. “We can’t have a student union, but we can have some type of lounge.”
Brookbank said the school is in the process of putting together specifications for the new lounge area and MTI hopes to bid the project later this month. If bids come back at a reasonable rate, the renovation can begin as soon as 2020, but if not, MTI will return to the drawing board and look at ways to make the project less cost-prohibitive.
But with the space already available on campus and a clear desire from students for an expanded lounge, Brookbank said the school sees an opportunity to improve the educational and social experience of its students. While she said constructing a new building is not an answer to the issue, renovating an existing space is a viable option.
“There is a need and a desire,” Brookbank said.