One year ago this month, we opened the doors to a completely reimagined Ruth S. Harley University Center that fits the needs of the evolving college campus. Our new UC is expansive, beautiful and sustainable—modernized for today’s student, scholar and visitor. It is accessible and welcoming to all and already making a huge impact on us.
That’s how Gene Palma, vice president of University wellness, safety and administration, and overseer of the Ruth S. Harley University Center (UC) renovation project, describes the building today.
Adelphi opened the doors to the UC one year ago this month, launching a renovated and expanded campus hub to better fit the needs of today’s students, faculty and community. The two-year renovation project yielded a state-of-the-art building equipped with recycled and sustainable materials, green spaces, double the dining spaces and greatly expanded menu choices, a Starbucks, more classrooms and club meeting spaces, more event and gallery space, gender-free restrooms, a lactation room for student parents, and almost 600 ports and chargers (up from 90) for devices.
These efforts earned the University Center the Long Island Business News 2021 Real Estate, Architecture and Engineering Award for Top Education Renovation, citing the building’s excellent redesign, accessibility and commitment to sustainability.
In the Fall 2021 semester alone, students booked study rooms more than 220 times and faculty used the building for student meetings and gatherings with colleagues. The University Center also hosted approximately 1,200 meetings and events, 660 of which were student-led, including Greek chapter meetings and planning sessions for Grad Walks and Spirit Week.
The building has also been the site of countless personal interactions, ones that have made an impact on students’ lives.
“One place where I’ve really grown in becoming overall more social and outgoing is by taking a job at the Starbucks at the UC,” explained sophomore Sarah Joy Gallardo in Amazon Prime’s show The College Tour. “Being part of this amazing and lively community has really helped me build connections with others on campus.”
The UC also serves the larger community, inviting external partners and organizations to book meetings and events in the building. “We are anticipating a busier spring with more events returning to campus,” Palma said.
“Clients are excited about the modern technology, contemporary design and welcoming environment the UC offers,” said Alain Lanz, executive director of auxiliary and event services. “We’ve heard from numerous companies that are looking to have their events on campus, including corporate meetings, seminars, conferences and trainings.”
The Thomas Dixon Lovely Ballroom, for example, can accommodate up to 550 people for hybrid events and is equipped with a dual projection system, customizable lighting capabilities and a dedicated A/V room. Several other connected rooms include movable dividing walls and can be configured for a range of events, such as classes, meetings, screenings, dinners and cocktail hours.
The UC was also renovated with community feedback in mind, particularly regarding sustainability issues. Adelphi held town hall-style meetings to gather input from across the University, and the renovation was led by the the Sustainable Campus Council, which is composed of faculty, administration, staff and students.
“The first major decision was to renovate—rather than demolish and rebuild—the fortress-like 1972 brick building,” Palma said. “This prevented tons of construction debris from ending up in landfills and eliminated the emissions of heavy equipment that would be required for such demolition and carting. Instead, the vast majority of the original building was incorporated into the new design.”
Early in construction, students, faculty and staff gathered outside the UC for a beam signing event, writing their names on a piece of Adelphi history. They signed a steel ceiling beam that is now placed high above the west entry, near the iconic “welcome wall”.
One year after re-opening, community members are proud of the result.
“The response from our campus community, alumni, families on tours and outside guests has been overwhelmingly positive,” Lanz said. “We frequently hear how bright and open the building is and how there is greater meeting flexibility with the spaces.”
Going forward, the UC will continue to serve as an engaging, multipurpose space for Adelphi students, faculty and partners— bustling with events and opportunities to learn, connect and grow as a community.
“We have a number of large programs planned for the coming year, public health circumstances permitting,” Lanz said. “Many groups have started booking the UC for 2022 and beyond.”