On Thursday, May 9, Itasca Community College will be hosting campus tours and a program unveiling plans for the Beyond the Classroom Capital Campaign Launch. The $4.9 million dollar McMahon Student Center project will make larger and more integrated spaces for the students of ICC to spend time outside of the classroom.
In 2016 ICC English professor Patrick Matthias assigned students to write proposals to campus administration with the prompt, “what would make your experience here at ICC better?” Multiple groups of students independent of one another drafted proposals stating a need for a student center: simply, a place to be.
“Students had a chance to revise [their proposals with feedback from the administration],” says Matthias in an online video for the campaign. “[The administration] said ‘this is something we’d like to do.’”
“Everyone at Itasca Community College is proud of our warm, welcoming environment, and this will be the space [that embodies that,]” said Susan Lynch, Foundation Director of the Itasca Community College Foundation. “The vision is a place for students to develop a sense of community. ... If students are not in a program like engineering or nursing they don’t necessarily get a chance to meet people.”
Currently ICC has no student center on campus and the project aims to reconstruct approximately 5,000 square feet of existing space in the library and media center as well as build 5,000 more square feet of new construction near Davies Hall. New amenities will include ping pong and pool tables, a gaming station, fire place, a coffee shop, a relocated bookstore, and an outdoor equipment rental area for students to rent such things as skis and canoes.
The proposed McMahon Student Center would be the first in several phases to expand and update the college campus.
“We need to raise 4.9 million dollars,” explained Lynch. “We’d like to start construction in December, and it’ll be about a 16-month process to get everything completed. We anticipate the student center will be finished early 2021, and as more funding becomes available Backes Hall would be remodeled to accommodate more office space.”
As of this article, $3.4 million in funds have been raised with contributions from The Blandin Foundation, The ICC Foundation, community members and former alumni, though Lynch notes that the project would not have taken off without the initial contribution of Dr. Jack and Mary Margaret McMahon, whom the proposed student center will be named after.
The financial goal was set after a feasibility study was done to assess the project needs. Renovating preexisting space allowed for the student center to meet projected costs, as well as serving the deeply important function of getting students together in a central location.
“[This plan] repurposes space instead of adding to the footprint; it uses space that is underutilized, and it’s in a location where students have to walk through to get to class!” said Lynch.
In this modern age of technology the common use of cellphones has the negative affect of less social interaction and more solitary behavior among students. A noticeable disconnect among the student body began to emerge over time and a diminishing feeling of community coupled with a lack of space to meet others was impacting students.
“Our scholarship essay question last year was about communicating face-to-face or via technology,” explained Lynch, “And I was saddened by the number of people who said that phones keep them isolated, or that they’ve stopped trying to interact or reach out to other people because every body is on their phones; not paying attention to one another.”
“Itasca County’s population is 2% people of color,” Lynch continued, “And on the college campus it is 21%. These are people of different cultures, and to have a place to come together and learn from one another would benefit us all.”
Lynch went on to say, “I believe this project will improve people’s experiences and it will absolutely serve as a recruitment tool for more students. It will grow our campus and our community.”
Beyond the Classroom Capital Campaign Launch will be held Thursday, May 9, 2019 in Davies Hall at Itasca Community College