Student Center traffic increases

By Bradley Gosser 

The Student Center has seen a steep and steady rise in traffic over the past few years.

The number of students utilizing the facility climbs constantly and conference room reservations have skyrocketed since the 2009-10 school year. Foot traffic in the building from July 1 to Sept. 24 this year is up 30 percent over the same period in 2010.

According to student services director John Herbst, the upward trend in room reservations results from the rising number of new student-led groups and from more activity in existing organizations.

“Our student population today has come around to where they’re more interested, more engaged in global concerns,” Herbst said. “From human rights movements to environmental issues … the spectrum has grown.”

The Student Center is free for university-affiliated organizations to use, and the building’s staff welcomes the challenge to serve the needs of diverse student groups and academic organizations.

“We have an exceptional team that works with people,” Herbst said. “I am extraordinarily proud of our student and staff coordinators and their adviser, Rob Theakston.”

Managing the flow of events in the Student Center is “like putting a puzzle together,” said Ashley Casteel, associate director of event management.

While small groups can usually be accommodated for last-minute reservations, “we like to have at least a couple days’ notice,” she said.

Events in the Student Center’s large conference rooms, theater and ballrooms usually require six months to a year’s notice in advance, she said.

Herbst said that conference rooms in the building are usually used several times a day.

“We would love to have more space to accommodate students because unfortunately we do have to turn some students away,” Casteel said.

When a group’s scheduling needs cannot be fulfilled in the Student Center, the staff does its best to find another location on campus to host it.

When it comes to accommodating the high volume of requests from student-led groups, Herbst said he is pleased with the staff. The Student Center office manages outdoor space reservations, which have seen an increase in events as well, he said.

The patio outside the Cats Den is a popular venue, so organizations are advised to reserve this space as far in advance as possible.

“The area surrounding the patio is also known as the free speech area, so that area can’t be reserved,” Herbst said. “Anybody can show up there at any time, and we want to accommodate them.”

The outdoor amphitheater behind Memorial Hall can also be reserved through the Student Center office. Casteel said efforts are being made to make reservations more efficient.

“Event Management Systems is an online system that we are trying to start,” she said. “It is something that the students have been wanting, and I think that it is going to add to our reservation.” Casteel said students can look and see when space is open for reservation to simplify planning.

The director’s office will “still want personal contact” between Student Center staff and student organizations, “but instead of emailing back and forth to figure out what’s available,” she said.

The office is optimistic about its rise in popularity. “Give the credit to the students,” Herbst said. “Our student employees here are absolutely remarkable. I couldn’t be prouder.”