Published March 23, 2017
The script on the bright blue wall curving around the ground floor of Capen Hall promises “1Capen. Coming Soon.” And behind that wall, construction crews are going full tilt to ensure that UB’s “one-stop shop” for student services opens as scheduled in July.
Once completed, 1Capen will consolidate those services students most frequently use — but now are scattered all across the campus — into one central space to ensure easy access.
1Capen is the second phase of the Heart of the Campus (HOTC) project, the UB 2020 initiative to enhance the student learning experience by creating a “learning landscape” in the center of the academic spine.
Every project in HOTC “is about improved service level and an academic experience for our students,” says A. Scott Weber, vice president for student life.
The first phase of the project was the renovation of the third floor of the Oscar A. Silverman Library in Capen into a 21st-century library to accommodate the different ways students study and learn. The third floor now includes rooms for individual and group study; a traditional “grand reading room”; high-tech classrooms; suites for producing, editing and viewing multimedia; and a café.
The first phase also included consolidating services offered by Accessibility Resources to new space on the ground floor of Capen. The space, which received new carpeting, paint and lighting, features new offices and testing rooms.
Work is now proceeding on 1Capen, which aims to streamline essential student services in one convenient location so students can get on with the business of being a student. It should transform the way UB students take care of such vital tasks as checking on their financial aid package, getting a transcript or picking up their parking pass.
Satellite offices for the Registrar, Financial Aid, Student Accounts, Student Advising Services and Parking and Transportation will be housed in this area. Offices relocating permanently include the Student Response Center, the UB Card Office and UB Medical Insurance.
“It’s the first time we’ve brought multiple units into one operating theater,” Weber points out. “And as more people have become aware of this new space, they have become more interested in how they can participate in the space as a unit.”
Austin Booth, vice provost for university libraries, notes the goal of 1Capen “really is to focus on the student.”
“The student really doesn’t care about the organizational structure or the administrative structure of UB, nor should they,” she says. “Our mantra is, ‘we will get you what you need when you need it. You come here.’”
Booth describes the model for 1Capen as the “concierge model.”
“So think of a hotel concierge,” she suggests, adding that students will approach a front desk with their need for service and then be assigned to another nearby counter or office for specific assistance.
The space also will feature the “Buffalo Room,” an area Weber calls a “21st-century Jeannette Martin Room,” the all-purpose meeting room on the fifth floor of Capen.
The Buffalo Room will be the site for significant campus events — anything from a visit by the governor or a distinguished speaker to a reception or a UB Council or Dean’s Advisory Council meeting. The room will be able to be configured in multiple layouts, with AV and teleconferencing abilities, to accommodate a variety of events, including seating for an audience of 120-140.
And during high-demand times for student services, like the beginning of the semester, the Buffalo Room can be used as surge space, with portable counters to accommodate students seeking assistance.
“It’s a signature space; it’s our point of pride,” Booth says.
Another project within the second phase of HOTC will re-establish a prominent entrance to Silverman library from the second floor of Capen near the elevators at the current site of the Student Response Center.
Ron Van Splunder, manager of architectural support for Facilities Planning and Design, notes the Capen elevators currently are segregated into the business side of the house and the library side of the house. “So the ground-floor project will give you the ability to enter the elevator from the ground floor on both sides — right now you to have to go upstairs to go down,” he said, since the elevators do not stop on every floor.
There will also be a data visualization wall on the second floor and a “maker space” — a “hands-on, applied-design-into-action kind of a place where you can find the things you need to build,” such as 3-D printing, says Andrew Stott, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education.
Weber calls 1Capen the “realization of a 15-year planning horizon.” The project, he says, has gone from the concept of a new building “to the realization that Capen really is the hub of the campus and that as libraries have transformed themselves from being a repository of books that are now electronically – almost instantly — accessible to becoming more of a hub for student activities, it would be terrific if we could co-locate that type of service and experience for our students, as well as services that are important to the everyday life of being a student.”
“It’s truly become the one place where students and faculty can come to have their services taken care of,” Van Splunder says. “Anything they need on campus can be taken care of at this location.”
A number of other projects also are underway, although they are not considered “official” phases of HOTC because of they are being funded differently than HOTC, Weber says. Student Conduct and Advocacy — formerly Judicial Affairs – has moved into rehabbed space in 9 Norton. Next door, space is being renovated for the Center for Educational Innovation, which hopes to move from its current space in 212 Capen to the more visible space in Norton this summer.
And across the hall from the new Center for Educational Innovation — space that years ago housed the Tiffin Room and more recently undergraduate admissions processing — is being renovated to house an Instructional Design Laboratory. The admissions processing work is being relocated to the Ellicott Complex.
Two additional phases of HOTC are planned, if funding becomes available:
Moving the highly visible Admissions and Financial Aid offices to that spot would give Capen front doors from either side of the parking lots, obvious entrances for visitors coming in from Putnam Way and Flint Loop, Stott says, noting that “there’s a real divide” as to what is considered to be the front and back of Capen.
“So we’re going to have a building with two front doors,” Weber says.
And “both will be welcoming” for members of the university community and visitors as well, with “a clear sense of where to go,” Booth says.