Creating a Sense of Home

Student gathering spot to add social dynamic, community atmosphere

by   |   dalewand@bju.edu   |  
In the Den on the last Friday before exams

Alan Benson wants BJU students to view the entire campus as their home.

More than a residence hall room, home is an innate sense of belonging and an atmosphere that is welcoming, comfortable and as safe as a living room.

Recreating that aura since the 2015 repurposing of the Edwards Game Room and Social Parlor—which hosted comfortable and functional spaces for student group meetings or more intimate conversations, board games and recreational game tables—into administrative and student services offices has been recognized by the administration and Student Life Council as a priority.

Using offering to support project

An initiative to construct a student recreation center incorporated in The Den, plus ancillary locations, is underway. Students will be involved in the design and naming of the space as well as what equipment will be stocked. The initial phase, which will transform square footage occupied by the Bruins Shop, is scheduled to be completed for the beginning of the 2019 fall semester.

The February 12–15 Bible Conference offering will be directed to support the project.

“It is intentionally taking something as important as a Bible Conference fundraiser and saying to the students that the student experience really matters,” said Benson, vice president for student development and discipleship.

“It’s adding a social dynamic and atmosphere on campus that makes students have a sense that I belong here, I can breathe on this campus. It’s not just adding a game room as much as it is the beginning of implementing a philosophy of home here on campus.”

No designated space since ’15

Students attend classes with required preparation and many have regular on- or off-campus work duties and/or participate in extracurricular activities. A designated campus location for recreational time has been absent since the ’15 migration of offices when the Administration Building was razed.

“Starbucks made famous the philosophy of the ‘third place,’ and that is this old-world idea that there was work and there was home and in the middle was this place of social interaction,” Benson said. “In old Europe, that took the form of the gathering place. It was a place where everybody gathered, the news of the day was shared, they interacted with one another socially and then on they went to their homes.

“We’re trying to capture in a sense that third place feeling on campus. One of the first things we want to do is recognize that what we call The Den is the nexus of student life. It is the place outside their homes—the residence halls—where they are going to gather. That’s why we identified that as putting in a primary place of interaction and fun. We’re going to add a student-directed, student-led game room there. It will be a place of fun and gathering as a hub for student life.”

Recreation places indoors and outdoors

Supplementary gathering spaces in buildings across campus, expanding on the table tennis and foosball tables currently in the Dixon-McKenzie Dining Common lobby, are included in the plan. Students will also have the opportunity to check out equipment for lawn games to be utilized on Palmetto Green.

“We want to find student spaces, places where they have freedom to sit down, have a cup of coffee, have a foosball table … they will be different in different places,” Benson said. “We want to add that dynamic to all of campus.”

In general, they will be locations to unwind and enjoy a respite.

“We have not had, in a sense, a window where all of a sudden things stop and there are just students on campus and that’s what they get to do,” Benson said. “There are a number of things we’re thinking through like 5 p.m. as a threshold. If you want to make campus a showplace, do it during the day when people are in class. After that, we have students who need to study, prepare for the next day, eat a meal and all of that.

“They get to have this as home. They get to dress accordingly, they get to work accordingly, and beyond that, a place of social connection and interaction.”

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David Lewandowski is the content manager in BJU’s Marketing department.