Fostering community, connections and collaborations

New buildings on University of Denver campus focus on the student experience

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Aside from earning a degree, something else of value that people generally take away from the university experience is the friendships.

“These relationships are often some of the longest-lasting,” said University of Denver Chancellor Dr. Jeremy Haefner. “There’s more to (attending) a university than just taking classes. (The) experiences are incredibly important.”

DU aspires to teach the whole student, Haefner said. That includes focusing on four dimensions that help build the student experience, he added. The four dimensions are intellectual growth; career preparation; promote well-being, including social, emotional, physical, spiritual and financial; and exploring ethics, such as creating a culture of respect.

On campus, three new, recently constructed buildings will help build the foundation for the student experience. They are not academic buildings, rather, they are meant to foster “community, connections and collaborations,” Haefner added. “They will make these experiences far more intentional the minute they (students) step onto the campus.”

The three new buildings are the Community Commons, the Dimond Family Residential Village and the Burwell Center for Career Achievement. All three were constructed under the Denver Advantage Campus Framework Plan, which “is a long-term, flexible framework that explores ways DU can evolve over the years and decades ahead,” states DU’s website.

The building most recently completed is the Community Commons. It opened in January and boasts spacious lounges with lots of natural light, as well as outdoor patio space. It hosts the Rebecca Chopp Grand Central Market, and was designed so that all dining facilities are centrally located. The four-story building also houses student affairs services, such as a cultural center, clubs and veterans’ services.

In August last year, the Dimond Family Residential Village was the first of the three new buildings to open. It got its name to recognize the Dimond Family Foundation. It houses first-year students and was designed in such a way that the students can develop a “deep sense of community and meaningful friendships,” Haefner said.

The Burwell Center for Career Achievement is “all about connections,” Haefner said. It “is named in honor of Barbara Burwell, the late Rod Burwell and their sons, all DU alumni,” states DU’s website. The Burwell Center is the “nexus where students engage with employers and alumni,” Haefner said.

Mo Lotif is the manager of strategic initiatives for DU’s Student Affairs & Inclusive Excellence (SAIE) department. He is also a graduate student at the Daniels College of Business at DU. Lotif recently worked with the design and construction teams for the Community Commons and the Dimond Family Residential Village as an owner’s representative.

In that role, Lotif engaged with a variety of people on the project, including architects and contractors, as well as the DU campus community that will use the new buildings.

The students underscored that having a central place to connect with their peers, faculty and staff support system was important to them, Lotif said.

“The space is the canvas within which the student experience unfolds,” Lotif said. “The human element is what makes a university campus so special. The relationships formed transcend a student’s time here.”

DU aims to provide a sense of belonging, Haefner added, and not just for the first few months of school. The sense of belonging should last for the duration a student is attending DU, Haefner said.

Lotif agreed. The new buildings will be able to evolve with the demographics of the students, long into the future, he said. And the demographics of the university will only become more diverse as time goes on, Lotif said.

The core goal of belonging, now and into the future, is what makes these buildings relevant, he added.

“Belonging is the foundation upon which a rich student experience, both curricular and co-curricular, is built upon,” Lotif said. “For decades to come, this fact of belonging will continue to be a critical component of a transformative educational experience.”

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