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SMC opens new building

Liz Harter | Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It wasn’t just the freshman who had to find their classrooms and navigate a new building when classes began at Saint Mary’s Monday morning. Upperclassmen and professors have joined the first years in exploring Spes Unica Hall, the College’s new academic building, since it opened at the start of the semester.

The College announced plans to build Spes Unica – which means “our only hope” in Latin, referring to the cross of Jesus Christ – in the spring of 2006 and broke ground in the fall of that same year. The term is the motto of both Saint Mary’s and the College’s founding order, the Congregation of the Holy Cross

“This building represents our future – a future that will see us ever more ambitious and ever more widely recognized for the excellent education of women,” College president Carol Ann Mooney told The Observer in January.

The 65,000 square-foot new building is home to 13 of the College’s 20 academic departments as well as the Center for Academic Innovation, the Center for Spirituality and the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL). It also offers state-of-the-art classroom, laboratory and office spaces and contains a number of common areas where faculty and students can gather, such as a café, a reflection room and a patio. It will be dedicated in October.

It is a vast improvement over Madeleva Hall, where the majority of the College’s classes were held prior to Spes Unica’s opening, Mooney said in January.

“One of the hallmarks of a Saint Mary’s education is that students and faculty work and learn together,” she said in January. “Collaborative work requires the kind of spaces that will be found in this new building. This first rate facility will match the quality of our faculty and reflect the value we place on them and on the learning environment for our students.”

While students have only attended a few classes in the building so far many of the upperclassmen are excited to finally be able to attend class in the building that has been under construction for so long.

“I’m so excited it opened for my senior year,” student body vice president Sarah Falvey said as she walked to her first class in the building. “Our freshman class is so lucky that they can take advantage of it all four years.”

Senior Sarah King had only had two classes in Spes Unica Tuesday afternoon but she loved the design of the building.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “It was exciting just to go in with the [College’s] seal on the floor and there’s a spiral staircase there that I really like. It’s a place where I want to go and study and a place where I want to go hang out.”

Sophomore Caitlin Buzaid met with junior Claire Orfanos to do just that in one of the many student lounges after their classes ended in Spes Unica Tuesday.

“Everything is nicer than Madeleva,” Buzaid said. “I love it.”

She said the classrooms in the building, some of which have stadium-style seating, are more like what she imagined classrooms would be like before she came to college.

Orfanos agreed with Buzaid, saying she liked the comfortable chairs and seats in both the classrooms and the lounges.

Junior Grace Lape said she enjoys the windows in the building, which she says are nicer than those in Madeleva.

She is also looking forward to using the new Social Work laboratory.

“It has a two-way mirror so we can tape each other doing fake sessions with clients,” she said.

The faculty in the 13 academic departments housed in the building moved their offices from Madeleva over the past two weeks and history professors Bill Svelmoe and Dave Stefancic love their new offices.

“I like the fact that we’re in a suite with our colleagues from English,” Svelmoe said. “You get to interact with more people on a daily basis and the English people are cool.”

Stefancic said he has more room for the 69 crates of books he moved from his office in Madeleva and now that they’re put away he feels like his office is his own again.

“I love the window for the fresh air,” Stefancic said.

Svelmoe said he like the natural light that comes in through the many windows in the building’s hallways and classrooms and the fact that the building is environmentally friendly.

“It’s very green,” he said. “The lights are all on timers so we don’t waste too much electricity. The toilets are supposed to be all tricked out, although what that exactly means I’m not entirely certain and I’m not sure I want to know.”

The “tricked out” toilets are another green aspect to the building – literally. The flush handles have a green plastic coating on them to protect against germs.

Each bathroom stall has a how-to diagram on the back of the stall doors to explain how to flush the toilets to keep them environmentally friendly. The handle is supposed to be pushed up for “No. 1 (liquid waste)” and pushed down for “No. 2 (solid waste).”

The diagram also has a note saying that by installing the water-saving handle with the dual-function flush Spes Unica “has demonstrated its commitment to protect and preserve the environment. For the system to work, we need your help. Please take a look at the diagram above and push the handle in the direction which best suits your needs.”

One complaint students and faculty have had so far is the fact that there aren’t clocks in any of the classrooms.

“The classrooms are well designed but what’s up with no clocks in the entire building,” Svelmoe said. “I guess I’ve got to start wearing a watch.”

Orfanos said the lack of clocks bothered her too but she has asked her professors why there weren’t clocks in the building and was assured they would be arriving soon.