On any given day, Western’s Social Science Centre (SSC) is bursting at the seams.
Home to the largest student, staff and faculty population on campus, the building currently accommodates two-to-three times the number of bodies it was originally designed for, said Dan Shrubsole, Geography professor and Assistant Dean of Social Science.
Consider the packed SSC alongside an ever-growing campus population and a resultant increased demand for dedicated study spaces across all faculties and libraries. It’s no surprise Social Science students are in need of a dedicated study space of their own. Meeting this student need is essential if Western is to deliver Canada’s best student experience, Shrubsole added.
A new space, the Social Science Student Reading Room, will open in January, providing the faculty’s large student population a modern, dedicated and quiet space to call their own. The new reading room will be located on the ground level of SSC where the former Map and Data Centre library resided, before moving over to the D.B. Weldon Library.
“When you come in here at prime time, there’s not a seat to be had,” Shrubsole said of the SSC. “There’s some nice new space in the Physics & Astronomy Building, not so much in the Science buildings. The new Engineering building has some people space; the UCC (University Community Centre) is way overcrowded. The libraries have more space, but we are always hearing those spaces are always booked. Where are students supposed to study?”
Once a space was available in the SCC, the reading room quickly emerged as an idea to meet this critical need, he noted. Just as much as any other faculty on campus, it was important for Social Science to “focus on this part of the mission,” Shrubsole continued, adding a need to upgrade the building’s seminar and research areas goes hand-in-hand with creating and renovating study spaces.
“We just need space for people to read and study. We are packed here and I’m hoping this is the first of a couple of projects the faculty puts forward that supports both study space, as well as social space,” he said.
The new reading room will feature four collaboration rooms students will be able to book through the faculty’s student council, much like they can book study rooms in Western Libraries. There will be tables equipped with lighting and power where students can sit, read and study, as well as window seating with high stools and counters. The Social Science Students’ Council will have an office within the new space, as well. The room can accommodate roughly 100 people and will be open from 7 a.m.-11 p.m., operating on the same principles as study spaces in the libraries, Shrubsole said, allowing lidded drinks only, no food and acceptable noise levels.
To fund the room, the students’ council put forward $200,000 and central administration took on the remainder of the tab, he added.
“This reflects a great partnership with the students and the faculty and the senior administration. It’s going to be great; it really is. The students just love it. Right now, the expectation is the furniture will arrive mid-December. There will be an opening event in January,” Shrubsole said.
“Everyone’s needs were able to be met – this is really Phase One of the (renovation) project, which is focused on the reading room. We’re also making a push to improve our teaching areas. Students know it’s coming up. We are looking to upgrade everything we can,” he said.
“I’m just getting a kick out of seeing the students so excited about it when we talk to them. It will be great when the students start using it. It’s a revitalization. It will all take some time and some money. We certainly need the new buildings going up on campus, but this building needs a major refurbishment or investment, whether it’s from a mix of central administration, donors, students – I certainly look forward to seeing this as the initial set of projects over the next little while.”