By Mary Elsen, The Circuit.
When students ascend the Raven Walk, the peaks of a new campus skyline come into view. Westerman Hall’s renovations have rendered the building almost unrecognizable, having begun in fall 2016.
“This is a major project, the most expensive ever on our campus, and therefore takes time,” said President Stephen Minnis. “There is no question that there is some inconvenience because of this renovation and expansion, but it will be worth it in the end.”
With school back in session, both students and faculty are returning to Westerman Hall.
Dr. Eric Fox-Linton, chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department, said the biggest issue last year was trying to teach over the noise. This year, it was trying to get into the building to set up for classes and helping students navigate the building.
When all is said and done, Fox-Linton sees the benefits of the project.
“One [benefit] is just more space,” Fox-Linton said. “Engineering has just exploded recently, so we’re just kind of having over-crowding [issues] with them … [Another] is just general renovations to the space.”
“I think once we’re done with all [these] growing-pains, it should definitely be an improvement,” he said.
Victoria Finders, junior chemistry major, shared her thoughts on the renovation project.
“How [the renovations are] being done right now is pretty much just a pain to everybody involved,” Finders said.
As a chemistry major, Finders spends a lot of her time in Westerman.
“[Construction has] just gotten different,” she said. “Last year it was a lot of jackhammers into the wall right next to the classroom and now it’s things like water flowing in through the ceiling.”
One issue this academic year is the lack of an engineering floor in Westerman.
“I think there’s one usable room down there [on the engineering floor],” Finders said. “The rest of it is just kind of varying sizes of rubble.”
Finders also shared her concerns about how accessible the building will be for students when it’s finished.
Before the construction began, science majors had keycard access to Westerman, but with all the resources going into Westerman, Finders is concerned that that privilege will be revoked.
Though Finders’ concerns remain, she has hopes for the future of the building.
“Depending on how updated the building is going to be, there could be a lot more opportunity for students, a lot more research opportunities, just more that the facilities able to do purely [based] on how many students it’s able to fit,” Finders said.
Kayla Johnson, senior political science and international studies major, is optimistic about the renovations.
“I think [the project] makes a statement that Benedictine is dedicated to combining faith and reason and [is] doing so in a way that is Catholic and that sticks to our values, traditions and beliefs,” Johnson said.
Minnis said students can look forward to the outside of Westerman being complete by the end of the 2017 fall semester.
The 40,000-square-foot addition is set to be finished around April 2018 and the renovations of the original 60,000-square-feet should be complete by Christmas 2018.
“When finished, Westerman Hall will be the finest science and engineering building at any small college in the country,” Minnis said. “It puts a stake in the ground that the sciences are important at Benedictine College and helps us fulfill our vision to be the Catholic liberal arts college that prepares future doctors, engineers, scientists and health care professionals for the 21st century.”