USF Sarasota-Manatee welcomes students, touts improvements

Among other projects this past summer, workers revamped Information Commons and built a basketball court.

Among other projects this past summer, workers revamped Information Commons and built a basketball court.

SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug. 24, 2015) – USF Sarasota-Manatee has been busy the past few months and the hundreds of students returning to class this week should notice big differences. They run from one end of the campus to the other – literally.

Consider some of the changes:

  • The newly revamped Information Commons area on the second floor of the rotunda that combines a student lounge with collaborative-study areas and private-study carrels.
  • The new basketball court at the campus’ north end, steps from Jonathan’s Café. This, after a sand volleyball court was completed late last spring at the campus’ west end.
  • The new modular biological laboratory installed just last week. The lab, next to another biological lab at the campus’ north end, could become operational by late-October.

Partly the result of efforts to make the campus more student-centric, these and other changes are tied to commitments made last year by USFSM administration, faculty, staff and, in some cases, students.

Diane Fulkerson, faculty coordinator for Library Services/Information Commons, said she worked with Rick Lyttle, director of Facilities Planning and Management, to create the concept behind the revamped Information Commons area.

Before the work, which started in June and finished last week, a wall separated the area from the rest of Information Commons. Many students passed by without knowing the study area existed.

Replacing the wall with a glass partition opened the area to the rest of Information Commons, allowed for light to steam in and created an inviting space. Other changes include adding a long S-shaped couch, multiple tables and chairs and private-study carrels equipped with flat-screen computer monitors and keyboards.

Additionally, two collaborative study areas were set aside where students can hook up their laptops to share a large flat-screen monitor.

At the campus’ north end, just outside Jonathan’s, crews focused on an entirely different project. As work was getting under way at Information Commons, workers put the finishing touches to a new basketball court that originated from an agreement last year between student government and campus administration.

Funded by $260,000 in Capital Improvement Trust Fund monies – fees paid by students to support non-academic programs – the two-part project for volleyball and basketball courts came at the urging of student representatives who met with campus officials last summer. Administrators, supported by facilities and planning personnel, readily agreed to back the work.

The volleyball court, situated next to the outdoor barbecue lounge at the campus’ west end, was completed last April without a hitch. However, crews working on the basketball court were delayed until water pipes could be relocated. The project resumed in May and wrapped up in late June.

In addition to the new court, workers installed fencing, lighting, benches and a water fountain. The finishing touch – a “U”-shaped Bulls horns logo – was painted at center court.

Student Government President Alex Benishek said he hopes students play pickup games and feel free to challenge staff and faculty. The court’s lights, on a timer, are set to turn off at 10 p.m. Public access is not permitted due to insurance and other issues.

Not to be outdone, the College of Arts & Sciences was busy this past summer as well. In addition to installing a modular biological laboratory last spring at the campus’ far north end, crews last week lowered a second modular lab into place atop concrete blocks.

Dr. Christelle Bouchard, an assistant professor of biology, said workers must still hook up water and electricity, plus install cabinets, tables and other equipment. She said she hopes to gain access to the completed facility this semester. Dr. Bouchard studies jellyfish, with a particular focus on the regulation of stinging cells discharge.

“We hope by the end of October we can start conducting experiments,” she said.