October 4, 2010

Student, Univ. Groups to Occupy Alumni House After Renovation

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Five student groups and University organizations will move to the former Alumni House at 626 Thurston Ave. starting in June 2011, following a $1.1 million renovation set to begin in January. The building has been vacant since the spring, when the Office of Alumni Affairs’ remaining staff moved to join the rest of the office’s personnel in Seneca Place in downtown Ithaca.The ground floor of the building on Thurston Avenue will be filled by the Asian and Asian American Center, or A3 Center, which will move from its current location on the second floor of Willard Straight Hall, according to Patricia Nguyen, assistant dean of students, who directs the A3 Center. “Right now we’re in a 300 square foot room, so [by] moving into the building, we’re getting a lot more space … [which will] better support our advocacy mission,” Nguyen said.The Office of Minority Education Affairs will also relocate part of its offices to the third floor of the former Alumni House. The fourth floor will accommodate part of the African Latino Asian Native American Students Program­ming Board — which will also keep its current location in Willard Straight Hall — as well as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center and the Alumni-Student Mentoring Program. Facilities on the main floor of the building, such as a multipurpose room, bathrooms, a library and an open area for social events, will be shared by all five offices.Many parts of the $1.1 million renovation of the 8,000-square foot building, which will begin in January, will be completed before the move, including “structural upgrades including gender-neutral restrooms, a sprinkler system, an elevator and minor renovations and repairs to the indoor space,” according to Matthew Carcella, director of LGBT Resource Center. A number of sources will fund these changes, such as alumni donations, funds from the Division of Facilities Services, the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student and Academic Services. According to Alicia Torrey, director of Alumni-Student Mentoring Program, the location of the building will make the program more accessible to students. “Being located on North Campus where so many of our students live will make it convenient for them to find us. Currently we are located in Caldwell Hall on the Ag Quad, which is out of the way for many of our participants,” Torrey said.“It will [also] be a place where students can study and interact with one another,” said Kiranjit Longaker, assistant dean of students, regarding the new space that the ALANA Students Programming Board will use.  The combination of student-related groups in a central area will produce a more conducive environment for collaboration between groups and will present more opportunities for both inter- and intra- group experiences for University students, according to Nguyen. “Instead of isolated pockets, a center like this will help shift and change … to create a more conducive environment … that focuses on diversity. The building will create an entity on campus to allow for students to be more multifaceted and to pick more than one identity,” Nguyen said. “[It will] let people recognize all the different parts of themselves.” Other student-related groups agreed that partnerships between groups would benefit all the organizations, as well as Cornell students as a whole.“I think the new location will provide opportunities for collaborative programming between the departments to be located at 626 Thurston Ave., which will benefit all participating students,” Torrey said. The 626 Thurston Ave. building was built as a fraternity house in 1928; later, it also housed a sorority. In the 1960s, the University bought the building to house the offices of alumni affairs and similar programs. The Office of Alumni Affairs was housed in the building for more than 30 years.

Original Author: Cindy Huynh