Those walking through Blum Union this semester may notice a few changes to the student union. Over the summer the upper floor received a makeover that SGA and the Student Affairs Office hope will make it easier for students to access resources in that area.
“We see students from this office all the time come upstairs and not know where to go,” said Shana Meyer, Vice President of Student Affairs. “It was barricades to involvement. People didn’t know about the services that we had, and we know that when students get involved and engaged on campus, they’re more likely to persist and be retained.”
Renovations were made to the Center for Multicultural Education, Center for Student Involvement and International Student Services Offices in an effort to make each office more accessible and visible to students. The renovations include large storefront windows, new carpeting and new paint for the offices.
To Ann Rahmat, Director of International Student Services, these changes provide a more private space for international students to seek advice and feel at home.
“For us, we basically want to make it into a safe place for international students- make it where they really feel like it’s a home, where they can be comfortable,” Rahmat said. “[Students] have always been welcome, it’s just that we’d be giving them more space to be able to be more comfortable in that space.”
This new space is being completely funded by Student Success Act dollars. The Student Success Act (SSA) is an act that charges students $25 to $75 per semester to maintain and improve the quality of university programs and services like the International Student Services.
The renovations were approved by the committee presiding over SSA in April. A new memorandum of understanding for SSA was also approved in April, allowing the money to individually fund student services.
“The committee is comprised of both faculty members and student members,” Meyer said. “They worked through a ton of different options for where the funding might go. Funding was originally allocated to the union a couple of year ago, but it was just a process that we really had to work through as far as ‘what are we going to use this funding as a whole for?’”
The renovations for Blum ended up costing $196,164 out of a $440,000 budget. With full-time students paying $150 per year, it would take around 1,300 students to raise these funds within a year’s time. Whether or not that many students will benefit from the renovations they are funding is to be seen.
Student body president Alec Guy thinks the money could have been used on a number of projects around campus and that this project was worth the cost.
“I do think that it’s a good use of money,” Guy said. “In terms of other projects and things like that, we just recently changed SSA to go to different student services on campus and actually provide them with more funding. So I think there are plenty of uses for this money that would benefit students, and I think this is just one of the many that will have a great impact on students and improve Missouri Western.”
Gillian Evans, SGA’s director of public relations, believes students deserve to have access to the services in Blum and believes these renovations will make that access easier.
“We’re paying fees to have those services there, and nobody even knows about them,” Evans said. “I was one of these kids, where’s it’s kind of intimidating getting involved. You don’t really know how to or where to, and then you hear about all these services that are there and these offices that are there for students, but whenever you’re a student and you can’t really navigate where to go, it’s very frustrating.”
Students and faculty members alike are hopeful that the renovations will be able to give more opportunities for students to get involved.
“You can’t make people get involved, but you can certainly make it easier,” Evans said.
While the choice to get involved on campus is ultimately up to the students, Guy believes SGA still has work to do to promote the new space before involvement increases.
“I think it will be a lot on SGA’s shoulders, so to speak, to kind of get students to come upstairs and see the services that are up here,” Guy said. “So I think that the renovations themselves will help, but we also have to publicize it and kind of let students know that it’s been renovated.”
According to Guy, SGA has not made any plans to publicize the renovations yet, but will be discussing options further into the semester.