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Supporting Success: Renovations transform Mabee Center into a one-stop shop for students in need

Supporting Success: Renovations transform Mabee Center into a one-stop shop for students in need

You’re a brand-new freshman; you have pulled an all-nighter to finish your first essay for composition class, but you’re worried that it is not going to measure up. You need to print out a copy to turn in, but you haven’t figured out how to hook up your printer in your room. Overnight, your hands have developed a strange, itchy rash, and as climb into your car to go get some breakfast, you find out that your battery is dead.

Where can you go for help? If you are a student at UMHB, the answer is easy: you walk over to the Mabee Student Success Center. There you can find tutors to help with your writing, a copy center to print out your essay, a nurse to diagnose your itch, food for your rumbling stomach, and police officers who will be happy to help you get your car going again.

Located on the quad near all the major dormitories, the Mabee Student Success Center is a new, one-stop shop designed to help students with a variety of needs. In addition to a writing center, a copy center, Health Services, a police station, and a convenience store offering fast food, the center houses a tutoring center, CruCard Services, Career Services, International Student Services, counseling and testing services, ROTC offices, and a new and improved mail center.

“In order to serve our students well, we must equip them with the tools they need to succeed,” says Dr. Steve Theodore, senior vice president for administration and chief operating officer. “We care about our students’ academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, so it made sense to create one, easy-to-find place where students know they can get help, no matter their area of need.”

Same structure, new purpose

The center was known as the Mabee Student Union when it was built in 1972 with the help of a generous grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The original building was designed to house the campus bookstore, a post office, a snack bar, a game room, meeting areas for students, and offices for the Division of Student Affairs. Spaces were also allotted for a small theater, a campus museum, and a room for trustee meetings. In 1995, the building was remodeled to add classrooms on the south side of the building and increase the spaces for student services.

Over the next 20 years, the university’s enrollment grew from 2,270 to more than 3,800 students. The number of Student Life staff members grew proportionately, to the point that many offices had to be moved to other buildings as the numbers exceeded available space. When the demand for dining services also exceeded the capacities of Hardy Hall, administrators agreed that the time had come for a bigger student union building, and a new student union was constructed in tandem with the new Crusader Stadium. Student Affairs offices moved into Bawcom Student Union in the summer of 2014, making space available in the Mabee Center for other groups, and work began to adapt the old student union to the needs of current students.

One of the foremost needs was a place where students could come to get help with their studies. Much of the second floor was therefore devoted to study areas where tutors from the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) could work with students individually or in groups, to coach them through homework assignments or review material for tests.

CAE Director Katie Bonner says the move to the new facility was timed perfectly for the growing tutoring program. “Over the past four semesters, the CAE averaged about 1,100 tutoring appointments a semester,” Bonner says. “We serve about 350 different students each semester, and our numbers continue to grow. Now we have more room for everything, including eight private tutoring or study rooms with whiteboards, more study tables and sitting areas, and computers for students to use. With the new facility, this fall should be bigger than ever for us!”

The building also includes a center where writing specialists are available to help students on a walk-in basis. “Traditionally, we think of students needing help writing research papers, and we do offer group workshops on how to format a research paper according to specific guidelines such as the APA Style Manual,” says Frances Crawford, director of the Writing Center. “But many of our courses require students to write in formats that are typical to a specific discipline. Students may need help writing patient reports for nursing, lab reports for chemistry, translation papers for a foreign language class. Our students will be called upon to write in these formats when they enter the workforce, so we want them to be well prepared.”

What students want and need

All three floors of the Mabee Student Success Center offer appealing places for students to study individually or with friends. “Today’s students like to study in public places,” Theodore said. “They want to see their peers, as well as be seen by others. The Mabee Student Success Center caters to this generation’s study habits by providing an environment where students can study but also feel connected to other students and the campus community.”
The building also gives students easy access to other support services. Once located on the outer fringes of the campus, CruCard and Copy Services and the campus police department are now available on the ground floor of the centrally located Mabee Center. Previously, students could only grab a quick lunch there in a café open from morning to midafternoon; they can now buy sandwiches, snacks, and smoothies from 7 A.M. to midnight at the Mabee Market, which opens onto seating areas equipped with multiple charging stations for laptops and phones.
During their college years, students may experience changes in family relationships, unexpected challenges, and social pressures never encountered before. When these things occur, the third-floor office of Counseling, Testing, and Health Services can play a critical role in helping students weather such crises and stay in school. Also located nearby is the office of Career Services, where staffers assist students in finding part-time jobs and internships and coach them on how to find work in the profession of their choice after graduation.

All of these support services are designed to help students adjust to college life, fulfill their class assignments, and navigate the challenges of young adulthood. “There are a lot of factors that can make it difficult for a student to complete his or her college degree,” says Theodore. “Our goal is to provide a place where students know help is available for overcoming obstacles, so they can stay in school and successfully graduate from UMHB.”