Design Schematic for Union and Rec Center Approved

Student Union and Recreation Center 1000
An artist's rendering of the proposed new student union and recreation center at Arkansas Tech University.

The Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees approved the design schematic, method of finance and construction project budget for a proposed new 94,802-square foot student union and recreation center at ATU in Russellville during its meeting on Thursday, Aug. 18, at Chambers Cafeteria West Dining Room.

“Arkansas Tech University has boldly envisioned a new recreation center and student union building and a unifying plaza at the crossroads of campus,” wrote Laury Fiorello, ATU vice president for administration and finance, in a memorandum presented to trustees on Thursday. “This site is a central location slated to be a hub of student life and a landmark building for the university. Here lies the opportunity to create a memorable place on campus for student wellness, belonging, collaboration, gathering and enjoying the outdoors.”

The new facility will be constructed on the parcel of land currently occupied by the W.O. Young Building, which will be demolished beginning in September.

ATU’s student union and recreation center will include space for a campus living room/lounge, individual and group fitness activities, two basketball courts, outdoor recreation, a café, events at multiple scales, student organizations, food service, a convenience store/spirit shop, a multi-activity court and multi-purpose meeting rooms.

Miller Boskus Lack of Fayetteville was selected by ATU trustees as the lead architecture firm in the development of plans for the student union and recreation center in 2019. Personnel from the Dallas, Texas, location of SmithGroup have assisted in planning the facility.

“The design team and representatives from Arkansas Tech University have worked together to develop the program,” wrote Fiorello in the memorandum. “Through a series of three campus visits, the design team engaged students, staff and campus leadership in a triple track programming process that identified space needs, tested those needs with room layout guide plates and analyzed the project site. These efforts culminated with a perfect diagram workshop strategizing how the program spaces should relate to one another and visually capturing the ideal operational flow.”

The cost of constructing the facility is estimated at $49.3 million. Trustees voted on Thursday to transfer $15.6 million in unrestricted reserves to support the project. The balance of the cost is scheduled to be accounted for through the sale of revenue bonds, which will go before the ATU Board of Trustees for its consideration in October.

Fiorello wrote in her memorandum that goals of the project include providing a “safe and accessible walking experience for students from all directions around and through the site, a positive first impression of the campus from the east gateway between Brown Hall and Rothwell Hall and an iconic place that accommodates a variety of student life events.”

The schedule calls for construction to begin in August 2023 and continue through December 2024. Substantial completion of the project is scheduled for early 2025 with an estimated grand opening date of between June and August 2025.

In other business on Thursday, the ATU Board of Trustees:

*awarded an $8,099,000 contract to Alessi Keyes Construction of North Little Rock for a renovation of Jones Residence Hall;

*selected WER Architects of Little Rock to provide architectural services for a planned roof and exterior renovation project at Caraway Residence Hall;

*authorized utilization of Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to establish a provisional position that will focus on promoting mental health among the ATU student body;

*extended the existing COVID-19 sick leave policy for ATU employees through Aug. 30, 2023;

*invested $275,000 from post office auxiliary funds in relocating the U.S. Post Office location at Arkansas Tech from the W.O. Young Building to the University Commons clubhouse;

*authorized Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president, to sign contracts concerning health insurance for ATU employees in calendar year 2023 after review and calculation of request for proposal submissions and granted Bowen the authority to authorize a premium structure that would not exceed fiscal year 2023 budgeted benefit expense levels previously authorized and approved by the Board of Trustees budget appropriation;

*granted an access easement to the City of Russellville at the ATU property on the north side of 16th Street in order to replace the existing storm drain pipe;

*adjusted the budget and financing of the renovation at Jones Residence Hall to account for inflationary pressures and increased costs of materials, equipment, supplies and services;

*approved the updated ATU faculty and adjunct handbook for the 2022-23 academic year;

*approved 2022-23 student handbooks for ATU’s Russellville and Ozark campuses;

*approved a new policy and procedure manual for the ATU Department of Public Safety;

*adopted a pilot program for an undergraduate test-optional admissions policy that will establish a minimum 3.0 cumulative high school grade point average on a 4.0 scale or a minimum 2.0 cumulative high school grade point average on a 4.0 scale and a minimum 18 ACT composite score as the standards for unconditional admission for undergraduate freshmen on the Russellville campus of ATU;

*approved a new flexible work arrangement policy that will provide non-faculty staff the opportunity to request varying degrees of remote work assignment and/or schedule adjustment;

*initiated the renovation process for the industrial control systems building at ATU-Ozark Campus by establishing a method of finance, launching an architect search and transferring $600,000 from ATU-Ozark Campus educational and general reserves to help fund the project, which will also be supported by a $1 million grant from the Arkansas Division of Higher Education;

*established an additional, grant-funded provisional position to support the operations of the Career Pathways Initiative at ATU-Ozark;

*and adopted 2022-23 traffic and parking regulations for ATU-Ozark Campus.

In personnel matters, the ATU Board of Trustees confirmed the following full-time faculty appointments on the Russellville campus for the 2022-23 academic year:

*Nathan Brennan, visiting instructor of chemistry; Brittany Burris, instructor of nursing; Dr. Netlla Cureton, visiting instructor of curriculum and instruction; Donna Curran, instructor of biology; Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh, assistant professor of computer and information science; Karmen Goodner, visiting instructor of nursing; Kyler Hecke, assistant professor of fisheries science; Katelynn Hopson, visiting instructor of accounting; Dr. Claire Kortyna, assistant professor of English; Dr. Nathaniel Mensink, assistant professor of music; Kathleen Myers, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction; Tiffany Nance, instructor of psychology; Dr. Subha Pratihar, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Phoebe Robertson, assistant professor of music; Kasten Searles, visiting instructor of art; Md Abus Salam Siddique, assistant professor of computer and information science; Dr. Bethany Swindell, assistant professor of emergency management; Dr. Mary Trotter, assistant professor of music; Kristen Ulsperger, visiting instructor of criminal justice and sociology; Dr. Kelsey Utne, assistant professor of history; Kris Waid-Jones, assistant professor of art; Darrellyn Williams, instructor of biology; Janet Winn, visiting instructor of math; and Dr. Zahra Zamanipour, assistant professor of electrical engineering.

Also within the ATU Division of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jeanine Myers, professor of mathematics, was confirmed as associate vice president for academic affairs effective July 1, 2022; Dr. Jeff Aulgur, associate professor of professional studies, and Summer Bruch, professor of art, were granted opportunities to step away from department head positions and assume full-time teaching roles effective Aug. 10, 2022; and Dr. Lynnette Gilbert, assistant professor of art, was named interim head of the Department of Art effective July 1, 2022.

ATU trustees approved hiring the following full-time staff members on the Russellville campus:

*Joey Baldwin, head men’s and women’s golf coach, effective July 29, 2022; Marcia Brown, administrative specialist for the One-Stop Student Center, effective July 11, 2022; Holly Haynes, disability services coordinator, effective July 1, 2022; Jordon Jones, head softball coach, effective Aug. 8, 2022; Justin Qualls, crisis support counselor and wellness case manager, effective July 15, 2022; Melissa Riffle, director of human resources, effective July 5, 2022; and Rosendo Trapala, administrative assistant for campus life and the student union, effective July 5, 2022.

The ATU Board of Trustees approved the following full-time appointments through ATU-Ozark Campus:

*Caliese Cain, workforce education faculty of health science at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective Aug. 8, 2022; Brenda Huntsinger, workforce education faculty of health information technology, effective Aug. 9, 2022; Nathaniel Lutz, workforce education faculty of automation technology at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective Aug. 8, 2022; Hervie Prince II, workforce education faculty of welding technology at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective Aug. 8, 2022; Jonathan Weatherall, workforce education faculty of health science technology at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective Aug. 8, 2022; Mario Varela-Pecina, student support services specialist, effective July 18, 2022; Lisa Pittman, workforce education faculty of registered nursing, effective Aug. 9, 2022; Jordan Wright, workforce education faculty of registered nursing, effective Aug. 9, 2022; and Michael Young, workforce education faculty aide of automotive service technology at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective Aug. 8, 2022.

The board accepted resignations from the following ATU employees:

*Josh Bertke, assistant softball coach, effective July 15, 2022; Sloane Bertke, administrative specialist for student affairs and residence life, effective Aug. 1, 2022; Brooke Briley, administrative assistant for admissions, effective Aug. 5, 2022; Sara Brownlee, student support services advisor, effective July 28, 2022; Sarah Burnett, STEM project coordinator, effective Aug. 12, 2022; Sophie Cheshier, admissions officer, effective July 15, 2022; Greg Crouch, director of grants and sponsored programs pre-award, effective July 20, 2022; Agnes Cruz, director of teacher education student services, effective July 1, 2022; Andrea Denk, instructor of mathematics, effective July 6, 2022; Dr. Alwin Dsouza, assistant professor of agriculture business, effective Aug. 4, 2022; Shelbea Gentry, academic and career advisor, effective Aug. 15, 2022; Donna Henderson, financial aid specialist, effective July 1, 2022; Dr. Barbara Johnson, professor of student affairs administration, effective Aug. 8, 2022; Dr. Tasha King, assistant professor of agriculture, effective Dec. 10, 2022; Bill Lacava, assistant dean for residence life, effective July 5, 2022; Brian Lasey, physical plant/facilities management director, effective July 22, 2022; Amanda Lowe, career counselor, effective July 29, 2022; Jim McSweeney, assistant athletic trainer, effective Aug. 1, 2022; Kristina McSweeney, head softball coach, effective July 8, 2022; Elizabeth Sinor, student success coordinator at ATU-Ozark Campus, effective Aug. 16, 2022; Kelse Tennison, workforce education faculty of welding technology at Arkansas Tech Career Center, effective June 7, 2022; Stephen Weinmann, area coordinator for residence life, effective July 5, 2022; Lori Wineland, director of student support services, effective Aug. 5, 2022; and Dr. Jeff Woods, professor of history, effective June 26, 2022.

Requests for retirement were granted to Dr. Wanda Christie, associate professor of nursing and a member of the ATU faculty since 2006; Jayne Sewell, administrative specialist in the Roy and Christine Sturgis Academic Advising Center and a member of the ATU staff since 2003; and Dr. V. Carole Smith, professor of curriculum and instruction and a member of the ATU faculty since 2004.