Jared L. Cohon Center expansion promises to enhance student experience

On Monday, May 16, members of Carnegie Mellon's faculty gathered with community members and donors to unveil the Jared L. Cohon University Center's long-awaited expansion.

The Cohon Center's (CC) expansion constitutes an additional 62,000 square feet onto the already spacious hub of student activity. According to Gina Casalegno, Dean of Student Affairs and Associate Vice President, "This expansion signals the vision we have for how our spaces will support the holistic development of our students and their success." Casalegno was the first speaker at the gathering and addressed the merits of the Cohon Center and its potential to "transform the lived experience of [the University's] students." In his own speech, James Rohr, Chairman of Carnegie Mellon's Board of Trustees, said that this is "a facility that's really about ... the student experience."

The overarching theme of many of these speeches was that this expanded space is designed to augment the student experience by providing a space which prioritizes both physical and social well-being and growth. According to Casalegno, the CC expansion constitutes phase two of the University's three-phase Institutional Plan for recreation and athletics development, which explains the large amount of new space dedicated to exercise facilities. This plan is comprised of three projects/phases: the East Campus soccer field, which was completed in 2010; the CC expansion project; and lastly a revitalization of the Skibo Gymnasium space.

Recent Carnegie Mellon graduate Evan Wineland (HNZ '16) provided a student's opinion on the ways in which the expansion will affect the student population. Wineland said that the expanded space "will better empower us to invest in our own health and wellness," and that "the state-of-the-art exercise equipment that now furnishes the University's central hub will enable everyone ... to better take care of themselves." Wineland noted that the "primary weight room will now have air conditioning," adding that this is a "huge upgrade" to the previous exercise facilities. "This will be a weight room that makes people want to work out," Wineland said, quoting a member of the group with whom he was on a tour of the space with the day prior.

The speakers also plugged the space's ability to facilitate collaboration and expression. The most important piece of evidence to back up this claim is the Studio Theater, which invites performance groups such as Scotch 'n' Soda, Dancers' Symposium, and others to showcase their work. The space also supplies a renewed entrance into the Rangos Ballroom stage, which will allow performance groups using that space more room to prepare for their performances. Casalegno asserts that the theater is "designed to anticipate [a group's] every want and need."

Closing out the ceremony was President Suresh, who thanked the most generous donors and reminded the audience of the reason this expansion happened in the first place. Suresh said that "students are our most important product at this university, and we cannot do anything differently than to keep our focus and attention on them all the time," which supported Wineland's assertion that "the new and improved Cohon Center is a physical testament to how much this University cares about empowering the people here." Overall, the Cohon Center expansion was described as "bright," "airy," and "modern," and its presence will serve the student body well in the years to come.