Kristen Mitchell / Campus editor
Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee says the university needs to focus on the student experience outside the classroom.
The OSU Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) plans to focus on the quality of the experience that second-year students have not only in the classroom, but outside of it, beginning with the $370 million North Campus Renovation Project, Gee said during a March 25 meeting with The Lantern editorial staff.
“I’ve said this before … the fact that, if we just think about students in terms of classrooms 18 hours a week, but if we think about our students as having 168 hours of experience on this campus, we need to really be concerned about the other 150 hours,” Gee said.
OSU announced Thursday that Ohio-based Messer Construction Co., will spearhead the North Campus project after considering several firms during a review process. OSU estimates this review process has resulted in a savings of $26 million from the original $396 million budget.
“Messer is thrilled to be selected as The Ohio State University’s design builder for the North Residential District Transformation. We look forward to helping OSU realize President Gee’s vision by the implementation of this portion of the One Framework Plan,” said Rob Verst, vice president and general manager of Messer Construction Co., in an email Thursday.
Gee said the university needs to think more about the value of the experience that OSU offers its students, and he recognizes how much the undergraduate student body helps pay for the research conducted at the university.
“We do a billion dollars’ worth of funded research on this campus. We’re one of the most important research universities in the world,” Gee said. “Yet much of that is paid for on the backs of our undergraduate students. So we really do need to think about the quality of the experience that you have.”
The new program allows students to become more involved in the college experience, merging classroom work with research, study abroad, leadership and campus involvement, said Student Life spokeswoman Kellie Uhrig.
Students who participate in the program and live on campus for two years will be rewarded with a $2,000 university stipend.
“The first year of college is about discovering the campus and becoming familiar with its resources and opportunities,” Uhrig said. “The second year is about the student discovering his or her place in the broader campus community, and living on campus provides a higher degree of support for this self-discovery process.”
Undergraduate Student Government president Taylor Stepp said USG had “substantial reservations” moving forward with STEP.
“We were concerned, and frankly upset, that we didn’t have a voice in this,” said Stepp, a third-year in public affairs.
Instead of spending millions of dollars on new buildings, Stepp said the money should be used to control the “absurd cost of college.”
Other students disagree with the plan.
“I think it would suck to be forced, living in a place so expensive. I love the freedom that comes with off-campus housing,” said Deidra Rodriguez, a third-year in neuroscience. “My off-campus housing experience differed by price and freedom and space increase, but other than that, social life is awesome in both dorms and off-campus housing.”
But Reema Aljabi, a third-year in consumer and family financial services who transferred from OSU-Newark after her freshman year, said the living requirement will help students.
“Coming from the Newark campus to Columbus campus would have been a better transition if it was required to live in the dorms as a sophomore,” Aljabi said. “Living in the dorms as a sophomore would have given me more opportunity to socialize and meet other peers.”
More than 3,000 beds will be added to the North Campus area in order to accommodate the transition of second-year students into dorms. There will be different types of rooms to meet the needs of all ranks of students.
Construction is scheduled to begin in July.
The project is expected to add new dining and recreational facilities to North Campus, and there are also plans to remove Curl Drive and increase the total common area for students.
“As for second-year students, our goal is to respond to evolving needs and offer spaces for second-year students that meet these needs and desires. For instance, more doubles with in-room bathrooms and suite living arrangements,” Uhrig said. “We will continue to house all ranks of undergraduate students on all areas of campus. An important part of any residential community is the interaction and engagement among students, including the mentorship opportunities that come from interaction between various ages of students.”
Some construction will begin this summer, and the project is expected to be complete for use Fall Semester 2016, said Lindsay Komlanc, OSU Administration and Planning spokeswoman.
After this project is completed, OSU plans to begin building even more on-campus housing for third- and fourth-year students.
“I think it’s all part of a process, but I think that it’s going to be very healthy and I’m very anxious to see this thing up and running,” Gee said.
Ben McConnell contributed to this article.