This is not your mother’s Maytag.
When the 2014-15 academic year opens, the ‘90s-era Maytag Student Center will have had more than a facelift and tummy tuck; the current pass-through space from mailbox to Central Market will be transformed into a gathering hub of campus activity for today’s students from around the region and the globe.
“What I’ve observed,” says President Mark Putnam, “is that Central has not had an obvious place to gather. Maytag is a notion of what was, not what is important now. Students go elsewhere to meet so all of this square footage is not being used. We envision Maytag as a place where people will naturally gather for learning and programming experiences.
“This renovation is in every way addressing the most fundamental basis of Central:
• Central is a family—it’s something deeper here.
• There has to be a place for the family to gather, for the community to gather and be together.
• There has to be a place to promote wellness and to push ideas around.
• There has to be a place to interact and understand the human experience.”
Results from two student surveys conducted last year confirm Putnam’s observations and have played a significant role in the building planning process. Student Senate, led by Miranda Wehde ’14, is following up on the survey results, going into residence halls and seeking input from students about items that will matter as the building evolves. “The emphasis is on the students and making it a hub for students. We’re really excited about senior leadership’s interest in students’ opinions and creating space that people will use,” Wehde says.
“The building plans are creating a lot of energy. In the meantime, we are creating systems for collaboration that the space will eventually facilitate,” Wehde continues. “We want to be ready when the building is ready.”
Vice President for Student Development Peggy Fitch also conveyed enthusiasm for having space “for interaction and gathering together, and space that will accommodate well the importance of integration in and out of classroom.
“These changes get right at the heart of our mission to provide opportunities for students to develop and grow in many different ways,” Fitch says, pointing, for example, to plans for new performance and film spaces aligned with study areas and group meeting rooms.
“We hope this space will broadly serve students’ overall well-being—emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually.”
Both Putnam and Fitch emphasize that the building’s focus is on wellness and well-being as part of student development and creating a campus culture.
“This is not about amenities. This is about our mission of body, mind and spirit,” Putnam says. “We expect student development to be the point of integration and alignment with the curriculum, and we expect Maytag to be a venue where learning can co-exist with human interaction, where conversations are advanced, where student groups can promote programs.”
From practical to philosophical, Putnam offers perspectives from his years of consulting on other campuses. “Physical space can have an impact on education. The vitality and life of a campus is informed by how well campuses are designed,” he says. “All building planning is highly contextual. We watch how people organize themselves and the resulting energy and dynamics.”
For Wehde, student body president and history major from Tipton, the open access and new fitness facilities on the east side of campus are the most significant changes for students. “It’s very important that this will be a separate 24/7 facility and within walking distance of nearby residence halls,” Wehde says. “Students can go work out while studying late at night or after night classes. We expect that students who wouldn’t ordinarily come to Maytag will participate. All student offices will work together to create big events and entertainment options with very intentional plans.”
A PEEK INSIDE
The planned changes to address student interests, needs and lifestyles will repurpose under-utilized areas for greater efficiency and appeal.
- Starting in the lower level, a spacious wellness center for students, faculty and staff will be a convenient east campus alternatives to the west-side facilities in the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex. The new fitness are will include cardio and cross-training equipment as well as room for yoga, dance and fitness classes. From the student perspective, Wehde says this is “the most significant change. Many students don’t feel comfortable at Kuyper (Athletics Complex) because it’s a very intense athletic focus, as it should be. This can create awkwardness for students who just want to go there to work on the elliptical while reading Foundations of Politics.”
- Most Maytag Center traffic enters and exits through a vestibule on the northwest side of the building. Congestion often results from traffic to and from the adjacent Central Market dining facility so the Maytag entryway will be enlarged and made more welcoming. Putnam notes that the project’s architect observed that Central was “the only campus that they knew of where dining and the student center are separate” so renovation plans will create a connection between Central Market and the student center.
- The main level of Maytag will feature an expanded commons, anchored by a large, stone fireplace and performance stage. The current compartmentalized areas will be opened to reflect how students socialize and study. This reflects, Wehde says, how students are “used to getting things done right away, without separate compartments. You can be connected to food and entertainment, all right here.”
- Grand Central Station will reopen with a coffee shop ambience, featuring lower dividing walls and inviting spaces, that Fitch calls “a physical analog to ‘breaking down walls’ and the way students communicate today.” The transformation to a cafe-style healthy eating option also integrates nicely with the nearby wellness center, and Wehde says she expects the new cafe to make use of the campus urban gardens for herbs and vegetables.
- The bookstore, currently inside the west entrance, will be converted into a more retail-oriented area that will share point-of-purchase space with the coffee shop. The “redesign moves us along to the new millennium and how student order books online,” Fitch says. A kiosk for placing orders is a potential addition.
- Conference rooms from the upper level will be moved into the space currently occupied by the bookstore. The rooms named for J. Gilbert (Gil) Boat, Margaret Moore and Shirely Weller will provide convenient access for groups and visitors conducting meetings in the flexible space.
- Offices for the student development division (with the exception of the Health Center) will be housed together in collaborative and accessible space on third floor, which Fitch says will be an advantage for “communication and enhanced personal connections between students, class deans and directors.”
- Offices for student organizations such as Campus Activities Board, Greek Life and Student Senate will also be located on the upper level, which Fitch and Wehde both welcome. “It’s very exciting to think about administrators and students working side- by-side, with groups having more accessible office hours and members of student leadership available at all times,” Wehde says.
- Sustainability is an encompassing theme throughout all of the proposed changes, Wehde reminds. “Central made a promise to be carbon neutral and while we have a long way to go, we are going to try to be LEED Silver certified with the Maytag Center. I am passionate about sustainability so to learn that is our goal is very exciting. To make the new Maytag Student Center sustainable and eco-friendly is an admirable and attainable goal.”
THANKS TO THE FAMILY
This dramatic transformation is possible thanks to a generous $2.75 million gift from the Fred Maytag Family Foundation, also the major benefactor to the original center. The Foundation’s most recent gift is among the largest single donations in the college’s history.
The Maytag Student Center was named for Fred Maytag II, grandson of F.L. Maytag who founded the Maytag Company in Newton in 1889. Fred Maytag was president of the company from 1940-62, an Iowa entrepreneur and public servant who created the Fred Maytag Family Foundation. His sons, Fritz and Ken Maytag, directors of the foundation, participated in campus discussions about facility plans.
“We feel an obligation to ensure that the Maytag Student Center continues to serve the Central students of tomorrow as well as it has served the students of the past quarter-century,” says Fritz Maytag. “We were genuinely impressed and energized by our recent visit to Central and the vision presented of what this building could become.”
Ken Maytag reflected on the family’s roots and commitment to quality and service, saying, “We are blessed to have this opportunity to help Central prepare the citizens of tomorrow.”
“As we look forward to the 25th anniversary of this building, we deeply value the partnership that has existed with the Fred Maytag Family Foundation over these years,” Putnam says. “The foundation’s continued commitment to creating opportunities for students to have a transformative educational experience is inspiring to all of us. We are profoundly appreciative of this very generous gift.”
Wehde adds appreciation on behalf of the student body, observing, “Senior Leadership has students in mind with all of this gift, which shows that others believe in us. Students in general are so grateful for this very substantial gift and the generosity of the Maytag Family Foundation.”
A rededication of the facility is expected next fall when Maytag family members can return to campus to enjoy the namesake center.