Each year, students coming to the end of their four years at UConn work together to raise funds for a class gift that will mark their legacy. This year’s seniors are no different.
The class of 2008 is raising money to redesign the main entrance to the Student Union – the hub of student activity on campus since it opened in the 1950s – and create an inviting central gathering space that will benefit future students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
A plaque recognizing the donors will be placed on display in the new space, named Senior Square.
The Student Union was recently renovated and expanded. After four years and $80 million, the new “U” opened in August 2006.
More than 300 student clubs and activities are coordinated or operated from the building, including leadership programs and UConn’s six cultural centers.
“The physical benefit of our gift,” says Kyle Bellemare, CLAS ’08, chair of the senior class gift committee, “will be a beautiful entrance to a very central location on campus, the Student Union.
It will be like a finishing touch to the building that has undergone so many renovations during the past few years.”
To date, seniors have committed more than $40,500, surpassing the original goal of $30,000. The gift committee is asking each student to give $20.08 in commemoration of their graduation year.
Fundraising expectations are high, following successful campaigns in the past two years, when seniors raised $31,000 and $32,000, respectively.
“The senior class gift is an excellent way for seniors to give something back to the University that has provided us with so much over the past four years,” says Bellemare.
“We have all benefited from private gifts to the University in the past, whether it was for scholarships, building renovations, or technology advancements. This is a great opportunity for seniors to start giving back, ensuring future undergrads similar experiences.”
The Senior Square is being designed by juniors in the landscape architecture program as a class project.
The effort is led by Kristin Schwab and Mark Westa, both associate professors of landscape architecture in the plant science department in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The current main entrance to the Student Union is neither functional nor attractive, and the sidewalks leading to it and plantings offer minimal visual interest, say Westa and Schwab. The new plaza will address these multifaceted problems.
“From a functional point of view, the entrance does not provide an exterior gathering or civic space that would be appropriate for a building that serves as the center for the UConn community,” says Westa.
| Kyle Bellemare, CLAS ’08, chair of the senior class gift committee.
|Photo supplied by the UConn Foundation Inc.
By adding new walkways, a variety of plantings, seating, walls, and terraces, the project will give the main entrance the prominence it deserves, add a beautiful focal point in the heart of the campus, and create a comfortable outdoor space for gathering, says Schwab.
The design will address many factors, including automotive and pedestrian traffic on Hillside Road, site grading, and sustainable development practices.
The students’ goal is to create a cohesive design that not only fits in with the existing site but also ties together UConn’s public venues along Hillside Road, including the Student Union, the Co-op, Gampel Pavilion, the UConn Foundation, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, and the parking garages.
Westa says the design project has been an excellent experiential learning tool for students in the landscape architecture program.
“Throughout the program, we have students work on a wide range of projects, from large community planning or urban design to small plazas, but often the spaces are hypothetical or, if they’re real, they’re too far away for students to visit,” he says. “This project works well with the curriculum because it is a real life project in a place that students can easily visit.”
The design plan is expected to be reviewed soon by the senior class gift committee and campus planners, with groundbreaking anticipated next year.
Bellemare, a double major in economics and political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is enjoying participating in the design process and working with his classmates to give back to UConn.
“This experience has taught me a lot about team building and fund raising,” he says. “It’s extremely fulfilling to see seniors give back while benefiting the University at the same time.”
Fund raising and community involvement are not new responsibilities for Bellemare, who will begin a sales position at Philip Morris after graduating this month.
Through his job in the student call center at the UConn Foundation, he has helped bring in private donations for the University. Bellemare also engages in philanthropic and community service activities through the international business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi.
To make a gift to the Senior Square Fund, contact Leanne Proctor at 860.486.1565.