MIDDLETOWN – Everyone needs a place to recharge. A place to decompress. A place to chill. A place to meet friends. A place to call their own.
A very well-attended ribbon cutting was held on the first day of Fall classes at the SUNY Orange Shepard Student Center to celebrate the grand opening of a bright, fun, and modern space requested, partially funded, and fully designed by SUNY Orange students.
Fall 2022: The College’s Student Senate identified the need to update the former cafeteria space of approximately 8,000 square feet while updating meeting and office spaces on the first floor of the Shepard Student Center. The hope was to breathe new life into the space resulting in a true campus destination and an inviting area students and clubs would want to use. After extensive discussions with input from the student body, the Senators initiated conversations with the College administration and Board of Trustees.
“Student Senate described to the administration what they were seeking with the project and supplied a comprehensive list of updates and changes they wanted to see in the space. Much of this work was done at the Student Leadership Retreat in January (2023). Student Senators and Board of Activities members came together to draw sketches and brainstorm needs for the space. There were a lot of giant Post-it ® boards involved in the process filled with wish lists, painting and flooring ideas, technological concepts, and a whole bunch of excited shouting,” recalls Adrienne Victor, director for student involvement.
Spring 2023: The Student Senate unanimously voted to financially support the renovation, along with the request to name the new space. Victor continued, “Student Senate also hosted charette boards at the Spring Picnic to ensure they were truly listening to the rest of the student population.”
As a result, it was brought to light that the game room, comfortable furniture and additional power outlets were a high priority. A second vote was necessary to allocate additional funds to meet student demand.
The Student Senate and the renovation team, including Paul Martland, vice president for administration and finance, student services administrators, the facilities and IT departments, vendors, campus partners, furniture and design companies, collaborated to bring the vision to life.
“Staff and faculty who were not required to assist with the renovation came and lent their expertise and time because it was for the students. The facilities team was an amazing crew with so much energy and positivity, always saying, ‘It’s for the students,’ when something had to be done,” Victor added.
In addition to more contemporary seating areas, the makeover entailed fresh paint, new carpeting with a modern laminate flooring border, redesigning the former stage area, lighting, and pops of SUNY Orange color.
Ribbon-Cutting & Grand Opening (August 28)
Enthusiastic students gathered in the entryway with a line forming up the stairway. The excitement was palpable as the crowd cheered in response to Victor’s initial greeting. Dr. Kristine Young, SUNY Orange president, welcomed students, faculty, staff and invited guests to the ribbon-cutting by first pointing out, “This is one of the best stories of collaboration in our professional careers.
“Not only is what you are about to see pleasing to the eye, not only was it on time, on budget, and not only was it executed to our Strategic Plan, but it has form and function,” Young continued before calling out the engaged students who brought the project to life.
Brianna Reid, Senate member running for president for the 2023-24 school year, shared a few words before the glorious orange ribbon was officially and animatedly cut by Student Trustee-designee Djean Nikitov. The ceremonial orange ribbon fell to the floor, entering students were provided raffle tickets, and the festivities immediately commenced.
Student artists filled the blackboards with chalk, table games including billiards and ping-pong began, video and board games were distributed, snacks were enjoyed, and the unique furniture was utilized. Asked what she was most excited to see, Reid answered, “The diversity and the number of students here. I’m happy for them, proud of everything we’ve done, and for the students to come, I am amazed.”
Nikitov shared, “I had high expectations, but seeing this many people attend was way beyond them. It is the perfect culmination of a process where every part of the College—from students, executives, staff, and faculty, got together to do something that is just beautiful.”
While participating in the chalk art, Port Jervis graduate and visual communications major, Jailynn Gonzalez said about the lounge area, “I think it’s pretty cool and more spacious, making it better for events.
“I love the small cubicles,” Reid said in response to her favorite areas within the room. “And the circle area is a bigger area but still intimate. There are stations for computer charging, and the S-shaped seating contributes to the design. I love everything!”
SUNY Orange Board of Trustees Chair Ralph Martucci added, “The best part of today is seeing happy students filling the room and knowing that they needed and wanted their own pace. They brought this to our attention, they made it happen, and this is the perfect space for them.”
“I came to SUNY Orange and saw the potential of creating an area where students can gather, socialize, and have a home away from home. I saw how no one was jumping to the opportunity, and the next thing I knew, the Senate and I jumped onto the opportunity of reviving this space. It was beautiful to see the amount of dedication and passion everyone had regarding the project. It’s even more amazing to see that all that passion, after all of the community’s hard work and time, came to fruition in the form of the renovations,” former Student Senate President David Rosario shared virtually regarding the reveal.
An ongoing contest is underway to name the new space. First-round student entries will determine the top contenders before concluding with a final vote.
“I look forward to seeing people like myself making new memories in the space. When people are playing in the game room, or using the other rooms for club meetings, seeing life happening here and being a part of that fulfills me,” Nikitov concluded.
SUNY Orange students needed a place to recharge. A place to decompress. A place to chill. A place to meet friends. A place to call their own. And they proudly made it all happen.