The University of Richmond's Westhampton Center is on its way to becoming a reality following a cornerstone laying ceremony on Oct. 23.
The Westhampton Center, which has been in the planning stages for more than a decade, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2010. The purpose of the center will be to provide more space for students and faculty to promote the ideals of Westhampton College and support the education of women at the university.
The new building will be connected to the current Westhampton Deanery by a loggia, or outdoor corridor. It will feature a large living room where students can study and socialize, and expanded meeting space for organizations such as Westhampton College Government Association and Women Involved in Living and Learning.
The WILL program will be moving into offices on the second floor of the new center, and Melissa Ooten, the associate director of the WILL program, said she was excited about the move. Ooten also said she thought the living room area of the center would be a great place for Westhampton students to come together, interact with one another and work through ideas. The space would also be convenient for alumni to meet in, Ooten said.
The new center will also allow Westhampton residence life staff members to be closer together, said Angie Harris, associate dean of residence life. The area coordinators from residence life, whose offices are currently in the basement of Lora Robins, will be moving into the deanery, Harris said.
"From a residence life perspective," Harris said, "we are excited to have space for the area coordinators. They will move over here, and having the offices come over will be huge."
One of the advantages of having all of the residence life offices in one connected building would be more interaction between residence life staff and the resident assistants, Harris said. In addition to the area coordinators moving into the deanery, the duty office for resident assistants will be located on the first floor of the new Westhampton Center.
The center will also accommodate two new staff positions, a director of Women Gender and Sexuality Studies and a women's resource center director. Ooten said the addition of a head of WGSS would be very helpful to the WILL program, as WILL students are either WGSS majors or minors.
The second position, a women's resource center director, would be created to more directly deal with women's issues on campus, such as sexual assault, eating disorders and body image issues, Harris said. Both Harris and Ooten said as time had passed, the need for this position had become more and more evident on campus.
Juliette Landphair, the dean of Westhampton College, said she saw the two new positions as two-thirds of the reason for constructing the center. While the money for those positions has not yet been raised, Landphair said she was confident it would be within the next few years.
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While providing space for programming and students, the center is also intended to represent what Richmond's coordinate system stands for, Landphair said. The coordinate system, which divides male and female students into Richmond and Westhampton colleges, was put in place for a reason, Landphair said, and represents the school's commitment to equal educational opportunities for both genders.
"In my time here, I have seen such a shift in opinion on the coordinate system," Landphair said. "We are about so much more than housing, we really are a lot about student development and growth."
All the features of the new center would be beneficial to students, Landphair said, but the message the building will send would be important as well.
"The long-term significance is preserving and building upon what makes Westhampton distinctive," Landphair said. "And the president and I both spoke about how this building represents the longevity of the college."
That reasoning led to the inclusion of Westhampton in the name of the center, Landphair said.
Although Westhampton is a women's college, Landphair said that many men had contributed to raising funds for the center. The funds raised for the center include a $3 million donation from the Robins Foundation and $1.5 million raised from more than 200 students and alumni, said Landphair.
The directors of the Robins Foundation saw the Westhampton Center as something that was needed on campus, said Bill Roberts, the executive director of the foundation.
"It's going to be a great improvement," Roberts said. "We've had a longtime interest in Westhampton College and in women's programming generally."
Landphair said that in addition to E. Claiborne Robins' foundation, President Edward Ayers had been a great help in getting construction of the center going.
"Ayers understood the importance of the project right away," Landphair said.
Contact staff writer Kate Foss at firstname.lastname@example.org
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