When Fort Lewis College unveiled the completed north wing of the Student Union, the last stage of a $40.5 million renovation project, student groups rejoiced.
Long housed in cramped or outdated spaces across campus, their new location offers more visibility, more student traffic and a better ability to serve students.
Meanwhile, the centerpiece of the wing, the Ballantine Media Center, is creating new opportunities for campus media and boosting the college’s quest to create a new major focused on digital media and design.
Three campus groups, the Native American Center, El Centro de Muchos Colores and the Environmental Center have space in the state-of-the-art Student Union.
“It has been huge in terms of functionality, location and accessibility,” said Rebecca Schild, the coordinator of the Environmental Center. “I think we’re busier, and there’s more people coming in and out.”
The center was housed in a trailer northeast of campus for the last two years.
El Centro de Muchos Colores, which supports Hispanic culture and diversity on campus, and the Native American Center said they also have seen more visitors.
Added amenities such as a dance floor in El Centro’s space and a shared kitchen will make it easier to put on cultural activities, they said.
“El Centro having a permanent location in a beautiful space is like a gift for all students who use the space,” said Shirena Trujillo Long, the center’s coordinator.
Upstairs from El Centro, the media center touts rooms for video production, sound studios, flat-screen TVs and computers.
Campus radio station KDUR-FM, campus publication The Independent and Intertribal News all have offices in the center, and in the future the college hopes to attract a television station, FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said.
Leslie Blood, a media studies professor and The Independent’s teacher adviser, said the media center is key for collaboration.
“I hope we will come up with a way to share news content that is revolutionary for a campus this size,” Blood said.
The center’s creation also comes at a time when the college is taking the first steps to merge digital design and media into a new major on campus.
“It’s the way the field is developing,” said Linda Schott, dean of the college’s school of arts, humanities and social sciences. “Journalism is becoming so much more visual – it’s no longer the written word – so to bring in an art component makes sense.”
FLC President Dene Thomas echoed this.
“This is the perfect center for (the major),” she said. “This is the direction society is moving. Changes in media are coming quickly, and we all are modifying our approach to communication.”