Northwestern College starts a new chapter

2013-08-11T11:00:00Z 2013-09-12T19:03:23Z Northwestern College starts a new chapterTIM GALLAGHER Sioux City Journal

ORANGE CITY, Iowa | Space. Light. Quiet.

All of the above emerge as qualities already seen by Northwestern College students in the new DeWitt Learning Commons, a $14-million multi-faceted facility in the center of the campus in Orange City, Iowa.

This one is coming: Inviting aroma.

For not only will the Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Commons be home to the college's library, its academic support center, writing center, multimedia center and computer help desk, it will also have Common Grounds, a coffee shop named by NWC student Steven Dykstra.

"The coffee shop is a cool addition," says Ben Guhl, an NWC sophomore from Lindenhurst, Ill. "As soon as I heard the name 'Common Grounds,' I thought, 'Cool!'"

Dykstra won a $100 gift certificate from the campus bookstore for his winning entry, the first of several to feature that name, a marriage of sorts between The Learning Commons and coffee grounds.

"I entered the same name in the contest, but the person who entered it first won," says Caleb Hawks, an NWC junior from Springfield, Ill. "I heard that 10 percent of the students in the contest entered that name."

The place may be known by another moniker, eventually. College students have a way of informally naming their places of study and leisure. Jenna Beeson, a sophomore at Northwester, says one of her friends wants to call the new site, "TLC," short for "The Learning Commons."

The "TLC" shows lots of "tender loving care" for students in its design. The upper floor showcases the campus, providing a spectacular view from banks of windows that encircle the facility.

"It is so open," says Sarah Jones, a senior from Brookings, S.D. "There's a lot of light."

"It's really spacious," adds Megan Rustad, a senior from Spencer, Iowa.

"This is awesome," notes Sherri Langton, a cataloger/library systems specialist who worked at the old Ramaker Library on campus for 12 years. "I don't know how else to describe it. It's got the space, it's got the amenities, it's got the support for current technology."

Josh Dykstra, a junior from Orange City, keeps busy connecting new computers at The Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Commons. Dykstra on Wednesday set up an instructional lab. As new students arrive on campus, he'll help them fire up their new computer systems.

"This has been a long time in coming," he says of the new site.

His favorite part? He wasn't sure, that's how new this building is. "I don't know," he says. "I haven't been everywhere yet."

A ceremonial "book brigade" on Aug. 2, one involving alumni from the early and mid-1960s, and faculty, staff and students helped move many books from the old Ramaker Library to the new facility, commemorating the activity that took place in 1964 when the library was moved from Zwemer Hall to Ramaker.

Moving continued throughout the week and into this week in anticipation of students arriving on campus prior to the academic year commencing on Aug. 20.

The 58,000-square-foot learning commons, located immediately west of Christ Chapel, is accessible from a new north campus entrance that starts at the intersection of Central Avenue and Sixth Street South.

"This building will transform how learning takes place at Northwestern," says NWC President Greg Christy. "While the facility will be a beautiful addition to the campus, even more important is the programming planned for the building, which will further our academic goals and bring together several key student academic support services."

Christy calls the facility the most significant to be built at NWC since Christ Chapel was constructed in the 1980s.

"Countless hours were invested in designing a building that will serve students' evolving digital and collaborative needs for generations to come," says Dr. Tim Schlak, director of the library. "We couldn't be more excited about our new home."

The DeWitt Learning Commons will be officially dedicated at 4 p.m. on Sept. 27 as part of the NWC homecoming celebration. 

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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