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Strategic Plan Comes to Life

The Strategic Plan Comes to Life

Campus Concierge

By Michael Scott

One of the fundamental goals of the new Strategic Plan is to make the wonderful urban and natural resources of our region more accessible for Westminster students. The plan seeks to "expand and enrich opportunities for student learning by utilizing the resources of the local environment to maximum advantage." In line with that objective, Westminster is creating a campus concierge program to help students take greater advantage of the unique cultural, artistic, and outdoor opportunities along the Wasatch Front.

Like a hotel concierge, the campus concierge program will help students access tickets to local music, theater, and athletic events at discounted rates and will offer a comprehensive list of all the happenings in Utah.

In addition to a desk in the Shaw Center where students can pick up tickets and information, the core of the program will be a website. The site will be updated frequently and will include everything from local drug stores and shopping centers, hotels offering discounts to visiting guests of Westminster students, restaurants offering student discounts, to discount movie and theater tickets.

Mary Dirks, a senior majoring in marketing, remarked, "I am excited to see this new program come on board for my senior year. Westminster has done a great job creating a community here on campus, and now this program will help me branch out into the greater community of Salt Lake City and Utah."

Information Commons and Writing Center

By Michael Scott and Stephan Ross

Westminster's Giovale Library has always served as an excellent resource for student research and bibliographic services. However, many of those developing the strategic plan felt a well-designed space where students could work on group projects, meet with faculty, build their writing skills, access library resources, and even enjoy food and beverages was missing.

In response to that need, a new Information Commons will open in the Giovale Library this fall: it will be a center for Westminster students and faculty to engage in collaboration, discussion, active learning, and lively debate. Students and faculty will work together in an open space, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere with food and drink available, access high-end technologies, and receive centralized assistance.

The Information Commons, housed on the library's main floor, will integrate the services and support of librarians, information technologists, instructional technologists, and writing center staff to serve student and faculty needs in a collaborative learning environment.

David Hales, director of the Giovale Library, is very excited about the new Information Commons and remarked, "The Information Commons will put the Giovale Library at the forefront of new developments in academic libraries."

The new central work space will house 14 specially designed collaborative desks, each with a networked computer, extra power- and data-ports for laptop computers, and room to accommodate groups of three to five students. The collaborative space will also have two multimedia stations where students can create and edit multimedia using high-end equipment and computers.

The writing center will assist students with their efforts to improve their writing and will support faculty initiatives that use writing as an important tool in learning. It will feature several small tables for one-on-one tutoring of students, a variety of writing resources and information, and an electronic whiteboard to facilitate instruction. "By locating the new writing Center within an Information Commons, Westminster places itself at the head of a trend in writing center design and development," notes the newly hired writing center director, Justin Bain.

When students get hungry or need a caffeine pick-me-up, the lounge area in the south section of the library's main floor will have a café open in the evenings serving coffee, soft drinks, and a variety of pastries and snacks.

The Information Commons will allow students access to all of their academic needs in one centralized location. It will serve to make the already impressive Giovale Library a paragon of academic library services.

Center for the Environment

By Virginia Rainey

Magnificent arches and cliffs, alpine peaks, slot canyons, mountain lakes, meandering rivers, and a salty lake provide endless possibilities for research by Westminster science students and faculty--this is the unique environment surrounding Salt Lake City. The sheer beauty, geographic diversity, abundance of wildlife, and variety of ecosystems that characterize Utah all provide inspiration for students and faculty. In fact, the state's stunning environment drew some students here. Others have just discovered it as an exciting perk in their college careers.

However people come to appreciate it, Utah's "sense of place" is a great gift and an integral part of Westminster College's identity. It is also fragile and in need of stewardship. Thus, it serves as a powerful learning environment for students.

Those are just some of the reasons that environmental programs, awareness, and social responsibility are embedded in Westminster's new strategic plan. The plan states that a Center for the Environment should be established "to support the development of curricular and co-curricular programs and other efforts to use the unique ecology of the local region as an educational resource and to promote environmental awareness and responsibility."

Several faculty members are currently in the process of planning this center. Their goal is to take maximum advantage of the college's unique setting near the intersections of three major geographical regions: The Colorado Plateau, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Basin.

Right now the actual "center" is a concept--a blend of classes, internships, outreach, and research projects that focus on the environment and may eventually include service learning with environmental organizations, state parks, federal land managers, and other organizations.

"Whatever it becomes, we believe it will be a cornerstone of the college," said environmental studies chair David Stanley. "We see environmental studies as vital and Westminster at the forefront in terms of working within Utah's many unique environments."

The Environmental Center's planning committee has envisioned it as a clearinghouse for coordinating research, field trips, internships, and outreach. It could also provide opportunities for outdoor recreation by organizing equipment, staff, and transportation.

Between fall 2004 and spring 2005, the college hopes to have a new curriculum in place for the environmental studies minor and to establish the Center for the Environment, with a roster of guest speakers ready to address current environmental issues. As new courses are developed, the center will be instrumental in encouraging student projects to research, plan, and develop demonstration sites on campus. Look for gardens featuring native plants, plants important to Native Americans for food and medicine, and gardens with low water requirements. "The campus will flourish as a learning center that will also serve the local area," said Stanley.