Academia on display

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David Minton/DRC
Texas Woman's University's new Pioneer Center for Student Excellence in the Blagg-Huey Library features student study areas and meeting spaces, including several rooms which feature integrated teleconferencing and presentation equipment. The center also brings various services including academic programming, academic coaching, study abroad internship help and others together in one location, Wednesday, February 26, 2014, in Denton
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TWU Pioneer Center fosters technology, student learning

Through large windows, visitors on the second floor of Blagg-Huey Library at Texas Woman’s University can look into study rooms lined with flat-panel monitors and dry-erase boards.

This portion of the library, the Pioneer Center for Student Excellence, contrasts with the classic Woman’s Collection down the hall, and even other floors of the library. With new technology, modern furniture and resources from different academic offices, the center offers students something new — a central hub for learning and academia on campus that is completely accessible.

“It’s all glass, even throughout the rooms, and we did that intentionally so that learning is on display for our students,” said Joshua Adams, executive director of the center. “Literally as they walk in, they can see fellow students engaging and acting purposefully.”

The Pioneer Center for Student Excellence, which unofficially opened at the beginning of the spring semester to offer a one-stop shop for students, will have its grand opening today at 10 a.m.

Even before the official grand opening, students have started to utilize the space more and more, especially as they realize what it offers, said Katie Kellet, a student employee at the front desk.

“When we first opened, not a ton of people knew about us, so it was really quiet every day, but this week especially has been really busy,” Kellet said. “Student organizations are starting to come meet in our rooms, and there’s lots of students — we’re having to turn people away for study rooms sometimes, which is a good problem to have.”

The entrance to the center is spacious with all-glass doors, and tables and chairs to the left and right. One table features outlets in the center and extendable ledges for laptops and is surrounded by large gray chairs, while other arrangements have plush chairs without armrests surrounding coffee tables.

Toward the back is a large display screen, showing different programs and welcoming students to the center. Directly below the screen is the front desk, where students work and are trained to answer any question a student could have that’s related to school.

“Our front desk we are viewing as a point of entry for our students, so what that means is a student should be able to come in here and ask them any question about the university and we’re going to answer it for them, or we will find the exact person or office on our campus to answer,” Adams said.

In the back, there are offices for academic advising, experiential learning and internships, and representatives from the student life department and study abroad program will move into the space soon.

It’s also where offices are located for academic coaching, in which student volunteers help other students organize and plan long projects and classwork. Other student services at the center include regular workshops, a new initiative.

“All of the academically related offices are in one location for our students,” Adams said. “So if they want to get an internship they can come here, or go on study abroad they can come here, or talk with advising or academic enhancement — which is everything from thesis and dissertation boot camps for students to workshops on synthesizing information.”

So far, the students seem most impressed with the study rooms and the new, modern space on campus, Kellet said.

“They’re really impressed by it. It really, truly is one of the best facilities that we have on campus, and the most student-friendly,” she said. “It’s great. Everyone loves it.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.

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