PROGRESS 2022: Multiple campus improvement projects completed at MCC

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER — The Marshalltown Community College B.J. Harrison Library renovation was completed just recently and the updated student success center that is now located within the library is just north of the library front desk.

Multiple improvements to the Marshalltown Community College campus have recently been completed including a brand-new student success center, an updated library facility and a new student art gallery. The work isn’t done as other projects are slated for completion soon.

The new B.J. Harrison Library facility in MCC Room 304 was in the works for several years and recently opened this summer, alongside the student success center which shares the same space as the library. The library has a more updated appearance and provides ample space to study and relax.

MCC Provost Robin Lilienthal said she was excited to see all the plans for the campus coming to fruition and she was happy to be able to provide a more modern, student friendly library and student success center facility.

“It’s really important to have those kinds of improvements because today’s students have so much information that they need to process in order to complete their academic experience here at MCC, and the library is so critical to really understanding how to evaluate the information that they are receiving,” she said. “It’s important to academic writing and literature and to the critical thinking skills that are so important in higher education, so it just really contributes to that.”

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER — Another one of the study areas available in the B.J. Harrison library features a large picture window and comfortable chairs for students to take advantage of.

Lilienthal said they chose to co-locate the student success center within the library, so students who need academic support can seek help from both library and success center staff in order to take full advantage of the resources available to them.

Dean of Students and Learning Services Nate Chua said the new student success center location also worked better because it provided enough space to give a dedicated office to their learning services specialist as well as their full-time tutoring staff member.

The private office spaces give students more privacy when discussing their academic needs regarding disability accommodations or tutoring, something that hasn’t always been available in previous MCC student success center locations.

“I think having those two dedicated office spaces in particular were important for staff and the staff working with students,” Chua said.

Having an inviting space for students to use was another reason the library/student success center renovation was necessary, according to Chua, and he thinks returning students will be impressed with the new updates when they return this fall.

“I think most students are pretty savvy. They’re going to gravitate to spaces that look like things that they want to utilize and that look sort of modern and up to date. To be honest, the library, from a resource and services standpoint, the library has always served its purpose well, but not necessarily been inviting for students,” Chua said. “I think also being located sort of in the center, or the heart of campus, close to the student activities and the student union, I think hopefully that will draw more students to the space.”

When the new library first opened at the beginning of the summer, Library Services Manager Emily Horner shared Chua’s sentiments about the previous space being less appealing, and she was excited to welcome students to the updated facility.

“It’s also a much more inviting space for students to come in if they need help with a research question. I think the older space turned students off a little bit, like you would come in and think ‘This is not a place that’s going to have up to date resources.’ And we do want to let them know that yes, we do have up-to-date resources and we have people that can help with research, and people that can help with their assignments,” Horner said in June.

The Ray Frederick Art Gallery renovation was also completed this spring, and Lilienthal said they were able to take the best components of the previous gallery and modernize them to current expectations. In particular, the lighting fixtures got a major upgrade.

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER — The Ray Frederick Art Gallery renovation at Marshalltown Community College was completed during the spring semester, and the biggest highlight of the renovation was the updated lighting system.

“We have student shows in the gallery at the end of each semester, but throughout the semester, we have professional artists who also show their work, and so being able to provide that wonderful space, and especially the lighting features on the art work, really helps our students appreciate that art even more,” Lilienthal said.

MCC Art Professor Tim Castle said the new space has a very modern feel to it and the new lighting system is a definite plus for art shows. It is also more square in shape, allowing for better circulation of visitors.

“It’s got really a beautiful light system in it, which illuminates the work so crisply. So clearly and cleanly,” Castle said. “Just about in every way, the old gallery was lovely but it was getting tired. It was antiquated, and the new gallery is really more — well, the technology is up to date and the space has a very contemporary feel to it and aesthetic and I think that makes it exciting for artists who are showing their work in there.”

Castle felt the space showcased two-dimensional artwork in a far more pleasing way to the viewer than its predecessor, and he was looking forward to seeing visitors’ reactions during the new semester.

“I think, in a way, it will be more accessible to people. To students, and to the public,” Castle said.

On top of the renovations to the art gallery, student success center and the library, various other projects have been completed in the last year as well, including the renovations of four different computer labs and a physics lab. MCC has also been working on performing a “moderate facelift” by painting walls and completing cosmetic projects.

A parking lot renovation is also underway to improve the lighting and safety of the area, and that construction should be completed by the time students return to class this fall. Lilienthal said all the construction and renovation projects have been a bit inconvenient over the last year or so, but now that they’re nearing completion, MCC staff and students will soon be reaping the benefits.

The new facilities and updated appearance not only will make the campus easier to use for current students, but Lilienthal also believed it will make MCC a more appealing institution to attend.

“The higher education marketplace is really competitive out there, and we want to be the choice for our students to come to. We want them to say ‘Yes, I want to go to Marshalltown Community College because it has both the kind of academic programs that I’m looking for, the wonderful faculty and staff to support me, and also the facilities are competitive and are on par with any other college or university that I might be looking at.’ And I can tell you that the changes that we have made out here at MCC in the last year are accomplishing just that,” Lilienthal said.


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