By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – College of Business and Technology Dean Tim Jares wants students to spend more time on the west side of the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
He wants West Center, where the dean’s office and business programs are located, to be a place where students from a variety of academic disciplines gather to socialize and study between classes.
“I want to facilitate an ongoing interaction between our students and faculty, and also between our students and other students,” Jares said. “I want this to be a place people want to come to – a destination.”
A $1 million West Center remodeling project aims to accomplish this goal.
The project will enhance about 7,000 square feet on the east end of the building, improving the primary entrance, creating a fireplace lounge and modern space for the Brewed Awakening student-run coffee shop and establishing dedicated study areas.
There’s a sleek, “open concept” floor plan throughout the project, allowing the college to better utilize this portion of the building.
“We want to add spaces where people can come together and collaborate,” Jares said. “This project gives us opportunities to do so many different things that we couldn’t do before.”
Most of the changes will occur on the lower level, where Brewed Awakening is currently located. The remodel removes the employee offices and two of the three classrooms on this level and adds usable space by eliminating walls.
A fireplace lounge, similar to the one inside the Nebraskan Student Union, will be added where Brewed Awakening is now. Brewed Awakening will remain on this level, with a new design, increased storage and additional seating to create a modern coffee shop feel.
“This also gives us an opportunity to do more with Brewed Awakening,” Jares said. “We have some things in mind that are pretty exciting.”
The coffee shop, which is currently closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, serves a variety of drinks and food items, and also offers catering services. The business provides a hands-on, experiential learning opportunity for UNK students who put their skills and knowledge to work in a real-world setting. That won’t change.
“We plan to keep students engaged and running this business,” Jares said. “Brewed Awakening provides a valuable learning experience for our students.”
The revamped lower level will be large enough to host events while serving as a welcome mat for West Center guests.
The remaining classroom will be the new home of the college’s Finance Lab, which features a digital stock ticker and Bloomberg Terminals. This room will be enclosed in glass, replicating the look inside nearby Discovery Hall and allowing visitors to observe the learning environment.
“It’s that same kind of engaging building,” Jares said. “People will look at this space and think ‘business.’”
Upstairs, the east entrance will be transformed into a lobby with tables, chairs and other furniture, and dedicated study areas will be added to the first and second floors. The first-floor study area is designed for groups while the second-floor space focuses on individuals. Both areas will have a conference room with interactive whiteboards, cameras and other technology that allow students to collaborate on projects, conduct virtual interviews and connect with people off campus.
The West Center remodeling project is scheduled to start around April 30 and be completed before the fall semester begins Aug. 23. It will be financed with $750,000 in campus advancement reserve funds from the chancellor’s office and $250,000 in operating reserve funds from the College of Business and Technology.
“I think students will come back in the fall and really be impressed,” Jares said. “This project provides a student center for west campus that really has been missed over here.”