Newly redesigned spaces increase support for students
Two newly redesigned spaces at the heart of campus will provide increased support for student engagement, organization, and programming.
St. Olaf College’s Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion is expanding into the office that formerly housed Student Activities, providing the center with the additional space needed for two new staff members and the opportunity to grow and better support students. The expanded Taylor Center is designed to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate lectures, exhibitions, and dialogues, as well as a series of quiet areas for students to study, work, and find balance.
“The number of students attending St. Olaf College from marginalized social identities is growing exponentially,” says Taylor Center Director María Pabón. “Our space is a ‘home away from home’ for many of our students, so we want to make sure that we have a space that they can access for multiple purposes. One of the most exciting benefits of having a bigger space is the ability to introduce center programming around diversity, equity, and inclusion issues that allows for authentic and critical dialogue and conversations.”
The Student Activities Office, which serves as the primary space for student organizations on campus to work and collaborate, has moved across the hall into the space that formerly housed the Center for Academic Advising and Support and individual student offices. The Center for Academic Advising and Support has moved to Tomson Hall, where it is in closer proximity to other student support services.
By creating a more open, equitable space for all student organizations, the new Student Activities area aims to provide a greater number of student-led groups with access to the full resources of the college. All student organizations will now be able to reserve meeting space, and the new space also includes significant, centralized storage for the equipment and materials that many groups need to conduct their work.
“Student Government Association and associated student organizations now have space to more comfortably do their work and interact in an area that is not crowded,” says Dean of Students Roz Eaton. “Co-locating these offices and organizations with space for gathering and meeting is exciting as the organizations work to collaborate and to support each others’ efforts.”
With these newly redesigned spaces, anyone walking down the main hall in Buntrock Commons will see a physical commitment to student action. For the Taylor Center in particular, Pabón notes, that speaks volumes about the institution’s investment in its work.
“Physical spaces are a critical part of how we relate and interact with the world around us. However, conversations about inclusive and equitable spaces and how they relate to social and environmental justice are new. This space has the potential to transcend leaders and names,” she says. “This new area allows us to build together a space that represents who we are, where we come from, who we want to be, and where we want to go. We are building a space that screams that we are here and we are not going anywhere. Our identity is more than a room, but we need a place that can make visible the invisible, a place where our social activism — whether it is through events, dialogue, art, music, science, or listening — has a home.”
Taylor Center Director María PabónPhysical spaces are a critical part of how we relate and interact with the world around us. However, conversations about inclusive and equitable spaces and how they relate to social and environmental justice are new. This space has the potential to transcend leaders and names.
Established in 2018 with the support of a $1 million gift from St. Olaf College Regent Glenn Taylor ’73 and his wife, Myretta, the Taylor Center fosters a welcoming and inclusive community for students by providing resources and programs that support student success, engagement, leadership, and intercultural understanding.
“Our goal is to create spaces, physical and environmental, that support, respect, honor, and celebrate the multiplicity of our students’ identities,” Pabón says. “We want to create a space where you can be you and not have to pick or choose which identity you put forward. We are doing this by designing a space that provides open and engaging areas for the Ole community to promote and have critical discourse about diversity, equity, and inclusion.”