The University of Indianapolis was hit just as hard as any other college or university by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not slow the growth and development of the campus according to Kory Vitangeli, vice president for Student and Campus Affairs and dean of students. She said that even as classes went online, UIndy continued to push along with its plans of improving campus and in the fall, Greyhound students are getting to see the fruition of that effort.
The biggest changes students will see in the fall semester is in Schwitzer Student Center, which will now contain a brand-new 14 thousand square foot fitness center on its second floor, according to Vitangeli. She said the goal was to tie the academic, co-curricular and interdisciplinary sides of campus into one space. Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jason Dudich said that the new center, set to open up in mid-Sept., is an investment into not only the students but the staff as well.
“It’s an investment in the campus and in the facilities to provide a health and wellness center for students, faculty and staff,” Dudich said. “Ruth Lilly had provided that service for a long time, but we realized we needed to make an investment to recruit students as well as retain students and offer a more updated and modernized facility for working out and for fitness.”
According to Vitangeli, Ruth Lilly Fitness Center will remain open for the time being while they await flooring for the new fitness center. Dudich said that students already spend a large amount of time in the student center due to important locations such as the dining hall, Center for Advising Student Achievement (CASA) and the bookstore and that the move not only allows for a much larger facility than the one previously located in Ruth Lilly, but it also centralizes a lot of the functions around campus.
“We’re trying to be as mindful and resourceful with the space we have; we felt that space was the right size to place that fitness center in there and have it as part of the Schwitzer Student Center,” Dudich said. “More people can be engaged. It’s more upfront when we show prospective students around as well as students who are going in there to grab something to eat before or after and can work out in the same facility.”
The location of the new fitness center will be where UIndy IT was previously located, according to Dudich. IT will now be located in the basement of Esch Hall, Dudich said, as a product of consolidation of space and understanding that IT did not need as large of a facility as they had.
The second of the major changes in the student center revolves around Interfaith services, as the University Chapel, formerly McCleary Chapel, has found a new home, according to Vitangeli. Before this year, the University Chapel on the second floor of Schwitzer would host services and other events for organized religion on campus. Now the university has partnered with the University Heights Church, which is undergoing renovations on the first floor in order to build the University Church, Vitangeli said. This area on the first floor will also contain the acumentical interfaith offices and the chaplins’ offices, she said.
“We’ll have lounge space for students, some really nice hang out areas, chaplins’ offices,” Vitangeli said. “Then we’ll use the sanctuary for our religious services as well. Thursday night chapel will be in that space, as well as the Monday afternoon services and any type of religious service or gatherings would take place in that space in the University Church in University Heights.”
And with the now-vacated space on the second floor of Schwitzer, the university is opening up more student engagement spaces, similar to renovations done to the downstairs of Schwizter in years prior, according to Vitangeli.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from student life surveys that students want more space where they can hang out, study, have student organization meetings, etc.,” Vitangeli said. “That will be opened up for programming space; there will be a stage in there for weekend programs, and there will be comfortable space where students can just study and hang out in as well.”
And the final of the changes students are expected to see within the student center are the concepts offered within dining, according to Vitangeli. This past year, ACE’s Place, a sub and wrap shop, was moved into the dining hall, leaving one of the three shops open. Now after listening to the student population, a new food option is arriving: a vegan and vegetarian restaurant named Hanna Garden, according to Vitangeli. Dudich said that they trust Quest Food Services, which handles dining on campus, with these decisions.
“We’re excited that Quest [Food Services], our food service provider, is thinking ahead in that way. We work with them hand-in-hand on how those areas are set up, how they’re functioning in terms of what offerings are there,” Dudich said. “They’re always thinking about how to keep students engaged with on-campus meal service, whether it be in the traditional dining hall setting that we all see, or in the food court area, or the quick stops that are there. They came to us and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got some ideas to upgrade some things within Schwitzer.’”
The student center is not the only location on campus receiving changes, according to Vitangeli. Certain art students will now have their classes in a new home, the former facilities building located northwest of Cory Bretz Hall, according to Vitangeli. These new facilities, now located across the street from the campus police station, allow for the “dirty arts,” Vitangeli said, such as woodworking, clay and pottery, to take place in a new building, dubbed the Art and Design Annex.
According to Dudich, it is about finding the right space for the right program with moves like this. The assessment of how much space a program needs and the continued reassessment of that is something Dudich said they are constantly looking at, especially with UIndy’s limited space.
“We look at our space on an annual basis. [Asking questions like] is this the right amount of space for this program? Has the program changed, which requires more space, have accreditation requirements changed for programs that require more space or different types of space?” Dudich said. “We’re always talking about that and we’re having those discussions with the administration, with the academic side as to how best to utilize our space.”
Dudich said that with all the changes on campus the goal is not to impede upon student experiences or learning. He said they do their best to get these projects done during the summer and asks for students to be patient as changes come.
“Just give us a little bit of time. There’s a little bit more we need to get done to finish it….” Dudich said. “You can’t snap your fingers and all of a sudden you get the product on your door the next day. We’re dealing with a little bit of a supply chain issue, but just bear with us, they’re going to be very exciting spaces. I think the students and the faculty and staff are going to be very excited when they see those and to be able to show that this was not only donor support but also university resources that are making investments in the campus so that students enjoy it.”