A new Student Center planned

In September 2015, Dana Hall students will return to a bigger and renovated Dining Center that will be renamed the Student Center for its emphasis on the students. Its extra space will accommodate all of the clubs at Dana and provide a place for the members of the community to gather. Renovations will not just be inside the Dining Center, but also the hill will be flattened to make space for a patio and perhaps an outdoor fire pit.

As Head of School Caroline Erisman puts it, “community is at the heart of Dana Hall’s identity, but we don’t have a space to meet.” As it stands now, the lower level of the Dining Center can hold about 25 students comfortably with no actual place for clubs to meet or gatherings to be held. With the renovations, Dana Hall will be reclaiming 4,000 square feet of space.

Spencer Babcock ’17 says that the Model UN club either meets in Crawford, Common Ground, or club advisor Heather Panahi’s room. She explains that the problem with these places is that they are “too noisy and too crowded.” She believes that the Dining Center is in need of a “fresh update,” and that these renovations show that “the school is concerned about the convenience and the utilization of the school for the students.”

Shwartz and Silver

In the Student Center, the staircases will be moved, making space available for two conference rooms “similar to the 21st Century Classrooms in the Library Seminar Room, with flexible, mobile furniture and videoconferencing capability,” explains Ms. Erisman. The bathroom will also be moved to make room for a third conference room, and there will be plenty of space for new seats and a café.

Students won’t have to to walk into town for snacks, because there will be a café running in the Dining Center, all day, “free of charge,” Ms. Erisman promises. As of now, it is undecided whether coffee will be served, but Ms. Erisman anticipates that there will be a committee of students involved in this decision. Katharine Cabot ’17 says she is excited about “not having to walk all the way into town for snacks.”

Work will begin in May, and the project should be completed in September. But Cabot expresses some doubt about this timeline, worrying, “I don’t think the Dining Center will be done on time.”

By the beginning of the spring, renovations will begin on the first floor only, and students and faculty will be able to use the second floor until June. Summer programs such as Linx, GSLP, and GSEP at Dana will not be interrupted, assures Ms. Erisman, and she says that they will “figure out a way” to feed the campers.

photo sketch: Shwartz and Silver

The entire project is funded by parent donations, and Ms. Erisman is “confident” that the school will reach its fundraising goal of $6 million. She also puts her trust in the architects at Schwartz/Silver. For this project, she is assured that they will finish “on time and on budget.”

The Board of Trustees decided that Dana Hall’s buildings needed several renovations for Bardwell, the Johnston dormitories, and the Dining Center. After raising $12 million in the spring of 2013 for the endowment, it became a question of which building was most overdue for a facelift. According to Ms. Erisman, alumnae were pushing for a renovation of the Johnstons, coming from a time when Dana was a primarily boarding school, while current parents were more in favor of improvements in the Dining Center. Therefore, Schwartz/Silver, the architectural firm in charge of the project, asked the community which places they frequent the most during the school day. By far, students at Dana visit the Dining center the most.

As she holds up a photo of our the current Dining Center, Ms. Erisman shakes her head and says “terrible, dark,” and upon showing a picture of the future Student Center, she smiles and says, “lovely.”

Shwartz and Silver

Drawings are by the architectural firm Schwartz/Silver, showing the plans for the renovation.

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