Even early in the morning, Oglethorpe University’s new Turner Lynch Campus Center is already showing signs of life: students sitting at tables and working on their laptops, eating breakfast in the dining hall, sipping coffee under the yellow patio umbrellas at the Starbucks coffee shop.
“I call this our living room,” Oglethorpe President Lawrence Schall said.
On Aug. 9, Oglethorpe University opened the doors to its $16 million, 50,000-square-foot campus center.
Schall said the new facility replaces a poorly designed, 1960s-era campus center that wasn’t serving the student body well.
“It just wasn’t a place anybody wanted to come,” Schall said. “It was old and tired … people came in to eat and they left.”
As a result, there wasn’t really a good central location for students to gather on campus. But Schall said just a few weeks into the school year, the new campus center is already bringing more energy to Oglethorpe.
“It’s both a result of and symbolic of the growth and change at the university,” Schall said.
The stone exterior blends with the Brookhaven university’s signature Gothic architecture, but the inside of the facility is a sleek, modern space for dining, meeting and studying. It includes a campus book store, dining hall, coffee shop, and a new program called the Atlanta Laboratory for Learning – or A Lab for short.
The A Lab focuses on the “experiential” side of education – study abroad programs, internships, service projects and undergraduate research opportunities. “The A Lab is just starting, and I think it’s going to span a lot of interesting ideas and programs,” Schall said.
Oglethorpe isn’t done yet with its building program, Schall said.
University officials have plans to increase the student body from about 1,100 to 1,500 students, incrementally adding 30-40 students per year. Along with plans for growth, Schall said the university is looking to add more student housing and a new academic building to the 100-acre campus by the year 2020.
“There’s plenty of demand for a place like Oglethorpe,” Schall said. “But we’ll still be a small, residential college.”