March 29, 2008


TC3 opens $2.3 million student center

The 10,000-square-foot center includes activity rooms, office space and vending area


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Student Stephanie Agurkis finds the fireplace to her liking Wednesday afternoon in the new student center at Tompkins Cortland Community College . She was reading “Galapagos.”

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — From playing chess to campaigning for Student Advisory Board, the new Student Center at Tompkins Cortland Community College has already become a popular gathering spot.
The center opened Feb. 22 in a new building located off the southeast end of the cafeteria.
But with furniture not arriving until mid-March during Easter break, students have just begun discovering the Student Center this week as they return to school.
“When people find out about it, they take advantage of it,” said Campus Activities Director Ralph Shortell, who has a new office in the student center. “We’re really excited about it.”
There are at least nine entertainment events planned for the center in April.
“It’s not boring … It’s really comfortable,” said Bobby Nichols, 20, who commutes from Cortland.
A math major, he said he has spent time in the center every day since it opened. Last semester he spent his free time in the cafeteria and in the old cramped student activity office.
The new space is bright and has a lot of lighting, he said.
The new center is nearly 10,000 square feet compared to 2,400 square feet in the previous student activity area that included office space, a small conference room and the fireplace lounge, where most activities were held.
The new center has two large activity rooms, a formal one and an informal one with a fireplace. The center also includes a vending area, bathrooms, a large office space with large windows so other areas can be monitored and a couple of smaller rooms. It cost about $2.3 million to build.
“I get a lot of homework done here,” said Ryan Allen, 21, of Trumansburg. He said he was at the center at 7 a.m. Wednesday because he had a paper due. He also spent time in the library typing it.
“There’s no computers (for students) here yet,” he said. “It’s a place to hang out and not have to be quiet.”
Chrissie Ketchum, 23, of Ithaca was passing out lollypops to students entering or leaving the center. She is running for the Student Advisory Board and has been campaigning in the center about every other day.
“I like it a lot. There have been a lot of good changes here,” she said, also noting the learning center and the new athletic facility. “It’s a very relaxed atmosphere — casual.”
The center is now open from 7 a.m. to 10 or     11 p.m. at night Monday through Friday, Shortell said.
“We’re not open weekends now,” he said, noting they do not have the staff for that but hope to have weekend hours in the future.
Stephanie Agurkis, 28, travels from Cortland to the college. A general studies major who is concentrating her studies on biology and chemistry,  she said she also teaches at the TC3 Fitness Center. She said this was a good semester to return to school full time, as she lounged in a chair by the fireplace with her shoes off and her feet resting on the stone hearth.
The informal lounge was quiet and had a friendly atmosphere, she said.
“You can find space to eat, read and study,” she said of the new additions, including the student center. “It’s a good atmosphere for learning — not just desks and tables.”
Agurkis said last semester when she studied part time, she studied in the hallways where cubbies were set up but the fireplace and furniture at the new center are more comfortable.
“It’s homey. It doesn’t feel like an institution. I think that it was well-thought out,” Agurkis said.
A group of students also were settling in Wednesday for chess games in the informal lounge. Tables there have a checkered board imprinted on them.
“I haven’t seen college students playing chess in years,” Shortell said.
The student center rounds out the construction project and is an important piece that was missing, said Robin Slocum, assistant director of campus activities.
“Students have found it to be welcoming,” Slocum said. “It’s a great place for students to interact, collaborate and have fun.”
Slocum said when the college was built it was very open and this space returns that openness with the abundance of windows and natural light. She said she likes to watch students come in, looking for that sunny spot to sit like a cat, and leave energized.