When students arrive in Staunton this fall, they will see the beginning of a transformation. By 2014 Mary Baldwin will be a more polished, stronger, enriched version of itself. The college will be warmly familiar, but dramatically changed.
The last academic year was spent in conversation about the future; this one will be filled with action. Evidence of a shift toward some of the major goals of the college’s 10-year strategic plan, “Composing Our Future,” is already present in pockets around campus.
“Forged from our yearlong conversation, rooted in our historic mission, and directed toward the future, the plan is a significant accomplishment for the entire Mary Baldwin University community,” said President Pamela Fox.
Brenda Bryant, acting vice president for enrollment management and director of VWIL, added: “The intention was that when people arrived on campus this fall they would realize that things are happening. There is now tangible evidence of forward movement toward a renewed Mary Baldwin.”
Carpenter Hall looks largely unchanged from the outside, but the first thing many students and faculty members will notice is the crisp coat of paint and rich tweed carpet in the hallways and classrooms. The trim molding inside got a fresh layer of white paint and the walls were updated in two calming beige shades — lighter on top and darker on bottom. Several rooms got new faux-wood window blinds. Tables and computer workstations — reused from the former regional center in Sterling — replaced desks in a few classrooms.
“A lot of students spend a lot of time in Carpenter,” said Sharon Campbell, director of auxiliary services. “The new, professional look is not only about making the building look attractive, but also serving the students’ need for a good learning environment.”
Other projects included putting ceramic tile in four bathrooms in Tullidge Residence Hall, replacing brick on patios in front of the library and the administration building, and window washing. “The small steps will add up in terms of appearance,” Campbell said.
“Living-learning communities” and “themed housing” have become buzzwords on college campuses of late, and Mary Baldwin will gauge how the trend takes root here with two experimental housing projects this semester.
New students in the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and Bailey Scholars will have individual courses and schedules, but they will all attend the Introduction to College class together, working in the classroom and in their residence halls on a yearlong project based on the course’s focus: The year 1912, including President Woodrow Wilson’s election and world events.
Amy Diduch, associate professor of economics and director of the honors program, said the roughly 40 students in the living-learning community will hear from guest speakers from many major disciplines and attend the national conference at the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace.
“We hope to create a place where students are supportive of each other’s studies and contributions to the project,” Diduch said. “They will be among peers who are committed to the same goal.”
Two other groups of students will live together and concentrate on the life and work of Ida B. Wells, an African-American teacher and writer who fought for civil rights in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Under the leadership of Andrea Cornett-Scott, dean of African-American and Multicultural Affairs, they will be engaged in activities after hours. New Director of Residence Life Guillermo Ubilla has experience with special-interest housing at Shenandoah University and will be assisting with the pilot programs.
The Pub in the Pannill Student Center will no longer just be a place to grab a sandwich. Students, faculty, and staff will be invited to use 20 new cardio machines on the first floor facing the windows. Treadmills, elliptical trainers, a stair climber, and recumbent and spinning bikes (layout shown at right) will be placed in the central location to promote more use. The hours of operation are not yet decided, but the facility will likely be open morning through late evening and a continental breakfast will be available.
The Pub menu will not be altered much, but changes at the Nuthouse will encourage more conversation and lounging during down time. Director of Food Services Gini Ridge excitedly announced the addition of Starbucks coffee, Hershey’s ice cream concoctions, Au Bon Pain soups and sandwiches, and fruit smoothies. The center will offer a “grab-and-go” menu so people can congregate in the Nuthouse, in seating in the main foyer, or outside, she said.
Hours at Hunt Dining Hall will also be extended to 7 p.m. to better accommodate athletes and club meetings, Ridge said. Menus have been planned with the diversity of student palettes — vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, etc. — in mind, she added.
“This is the beginning of big things yet to come,” Ridge said.