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Plans for new student service center in Wilbur Cross taking shape
October 26, 1998

Plans to turn the Wilbur Cross Building into a service center that will offer students the one-stop shopping experience envisioned in UConn's strategic plan are taking shape, with architects' renderings in hand and a 12-member committee poised to decide where to slot different offices and how to configure their space.

However the space is ultimately allocated, students will find the new center a welcoming place, with fewer walls, more glass, workers staffing an information kiosk ready to direct them to the proper location - the first time - and staff from as many as 10 different offices cross-trained to help students with any information they need, regardless of how specific the question.

"We're committed to establishing a collaborative and cooperative atmosphere, no matter what the reporting relationships of various departments may be," says Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs. "At the regional campuses students can, and do, receive answers to a wide variety of questions from a single source. We can do it here, too," she says.

"We have a history of compartmentalizing, boxing things in. You don't look in and see people working in an open environment. You see walls," Triponey says. "If we can use some type of dividers instead, people will naturally talk more. They will hear and learn more about each other's roles."

She adds that other, deliberate efforts, including training, offices a better understanding of what their colleagues do, allowing everyone to help students with a wide range of questions.

And it will all happen in an open, modern environment that keeps many of the building's best historic features intact. Designs created by a Stony Creek architectural firm call for the north reading room, which currently houses the Department of Career Services, to become a quiet, stately reading room, designed with formal events in mind. The south reading room, now home to some of the collections of the Museum of Natural History, is slated to become an informal, casual reading room, where students can study, discuss assignments with professors and other students or simply relax and read a good book.

A caf on the second floor of the building will overlook the William Benton Museum of Art on one side and, from a balcony, the kiosk and first floor on the other. The walls that currently separate the front and rear of the building will be removed, Triponey says, further enhancing the clean, open look of the interior, and improving visitors' access to all sections of the facility.

Larry Schilling, University architect, says planners hope to begin renovating the building next spring or summer, converting the lower level to swing space, once the Booth Research Center for Computer Applications and Research moves to the basement of the Homer Babbidge Library..

Work will then begin on the second or third floor, Triponey says, depending on the decisions made during the next few months by the building committee, which includes representatives from the bursar's and registrar's offices, the Office of Disability Services, the scholarship office, counseling services, financial aid, residential life and facilities. Dean of Students Sharon Kipetz, Susan Steele, vice provost for undergraduate education, and Triponey also are on the committee, which Triponey will chair.

Schilling says the project, which will cost about $8 million and is part of UConn 2000, is expected to take between 18 months and two years to complete.

Richard Veilleux