Study space reopened on Student Center fifth floor

Former Athena cluster renovated with group and individual study spaces

The former Athena cluster on the fifth floor of the Stratton Student Center reopened as a study space on Friday. The space features both private and open study spaces and is meant for group study.

The Athena cluster was closed for renovations during the fall 2018 semester. The goal of the renovation was to create a space for study and projects, and for individuals to work both alone and in groups, according to Gustavo Burkett, senior associate dean for diversity and community involvement, in an interview with The Tech. Burkett said that the fifth floor study space, as it is currently being called, is a public student lounge open to all students 24/7.

There are many changes to the space. Old Athena computers have been removed. The new space has four Athena computers. There are multiple tables, which can be moved around to make larger tables. Additional light fixtures have been installed. Small, semi-private study spaces have been built along one wall, in response to a demand for individual spaces.

“I like that there are quiet spaces and public spaces,” Gustavo Santiago ’22 said in an interview with  The Tech. “I think it’s a good and calm place to study in a group or alone.”

The area also has a new color scheme and furniture. Burkett said, “We heard loud and clear from students: we want comfortable furniture that can be moved around.” Different furniture ideas were tested by students before one was finalized. The color scheme of the space includes shades of blue and green. According to Burkett, the students involved in planning suggested this based on studies that identified blue and green as colors conducive to study and relaxation.

“It’s more bright and colorful and open,” Loren Maggiore ’20 said in an interview with The Tech. “The Stud needed more group spaces.”

Students also wanted more writing surfaces, according to Burkett. To accommodate this, the study space has multiple glass and whiteboard walls. The glass walls also bring power outlets to the central portion of the room.

Alexis Schneider ’21 told The Tech that she liked the whiteboards, adding that the space has a “really nice vibe” and that it “kinda feels like a tech company.”

The capacity of the space is 150, including the semi-private pods.

Burkett said that the thought process behind the renovations had been going on for about an year and a half. “There was a lot of input from different constituencies,” he said. The Undergraduate Association, Association of Student Activities, and the Campus Activities Complex Advisory Board were involved in discussion. The CAC Advisory Board is comprised of staff, faculty, and students representatives.

Some similarities to the old space remain. The printers, including a color printer, which were in the former Athena cluster, have been returned to the space. The windows, skylight, and coffered ceiling have been maintained. “There is a lot of natural light, … and we were very intentional in keeping that,” Burkett said.

Nikhil Murthy ’21 told The Tech it was his first time using the space and he planned to use it more. “It seems much brighter than before. I really like the open air environment,” he said. “I think the Athena cluster before felt like just a working space.”

Additions are still being made to the space. One or two new computers are expected to be added, and furniture pieces are still arriving. Burkett said that the rationale behind reopening the lounge at this time was to have it ready before finals week. “The students told us: it’s okay if you take it offline to make it nicer and better, but we would love for the space to be available back to the students before the heavy study time of finals.” A formal opening of the space will take place next fall.

According to Burkett, this renovation is part of a two phase project. The second phase plans to renovate a smaller area behind this study space into two private rooms. These rooms would be available to students 24/7. They are intended to be for settings such as a job interview or project design. Further renovation of other spaces in the Student Center is planned for the long term, as part of a project to make the building more welcoming and engaging. The bathrooms in the basement of the building were recently renovated as a part of this process, and a working group has been formed to restructure the Lobdell dining area.

Update 5/9/19: The article was updated with the full name and title of Gustavo Burkett, senior associate dean for diversity and community involvement, which was omitted due to an editing error.