Work continues on Northeast Community College’s new campus ‘living room’


Special to the Viewpoint

NORFOLK– Construction continues on a new building on the Norfolk campus of Northeast Community College that will provide students with additional space for academic and student support services, enhanced study areas and places to relax and hang out with their peers.

Work on the Student Center, to be formally known as Union 73 when it opens, began in spring 2019. Construction consists of renovating the existing 36-year-old structure in the center of campus, plus erecting a 27,000 square foot addition.

Speaking before the Northeast Board of Governors at its monthly meeting recently, Amanda Nipp, vice president of student services, said the building will provide additional space for students to interact with one another. This includes learning commons areas.

“There are group study rooms where students will have access to technology for creating group presentations or to do group work in,” Nipp said. “… It’s going to be a beautiful space for our students to study in, to collaborate in.”

Nipp said when they spoke with students in preparation for the renovation and addition, they learned there were not enough areas on campus for them to study later into the evening.

“The (college) library closes at 10 p.m., that’s when they actually started studying, so they would leave campus. We really wanted to provide them a space where they can collaborate and get together on campus,” Nipp said. “There is also a designated quiet space in the building for students who want to study in a less distracting environment. “… We envision this as being a place where students come to see others and to be seen.”

The construction project is designed to create a facility to increase student success by bringing the Service (technology) Center, Library-Resource Center, Academic Support Services, and Business Services to one central location on campus. Additionally, the project will create expanded space for student health and counseling services, the Hawks Shop store operations, meeting rooms, student activities, and a game room. An area for food service and a coffee shop in the central portion of campus will also be incorporated, along with a dedicated college-wide secure data center.

The existing Student Center was identified in a Master Site and Facility Plan in 2017 as one of the buildings in the greatest need of renovation and repairs due to its aging exterior, electrical systems and accessibility. Space deficiencies and staffing adjacencies across campus were studied and it was then determined that the expansion of the Student Center would allow Northeast to provide much needed space to meet these requests.

The name Union 73 relates to both a student union on a college campus as a place that offers several services to students and to the 1973 merger, or union, of Northeastern Nebraska College and Northeast Nebraska Technical College, now known as Northeast Community College.

Board member Dirk Peterson, Norfolk, said Union 73 will serve as an excellent recruiting tool.

Steve Anderson, Concord, board chairperson, said the project only reinforces the all-inclusiveness of what is offered at Northeast.

“So many community colleges across the country don’t have dorms, they don’t have cafeterias,” he said. “They have buildings where they are teaching, but they don’t have this complete, comprehensive campus like we have.”

Nipp said Union 73 is scheduled to open in the spring 2021 semester.

When speaking with students about the previous Student Center, she said, “Students tell me, ‘This is my home, this is my place, this is where I come to be with my (college) family.’ We talk about how a student union can be the ‘living room’ of campus – and that is really what we want our students to do with this new space as well. We want them to make this place their home.”