Fostering Community by Design

Jacki Stone is assistant director of conferences and marketing in UMBC Residential Life.

Jackie StoneSometimes in order to BreakGround, you have to dig. You have to dig deep, creating a new foundation that can bear the weight of structure and growth. In the case of one recent UMBC venture, progress involved literally breaking ground with people and machine power to build the brand new Apartment Community Center for West Hill, Terrace, and Hillside Apartments here on campus.

Making a difference, in the world, on campus, and even within ourselves takes vision and purpose. Several years ago, staff members in Residential Life saw a need and an opportunity to realize their vision for a built space that would allow apartment residents to gather, Apartment Community Center 1create, and learn in a community environment. As of mid-September, there is now a beautiful space for them, just steps from their front doors, where they can live and learn together.

From design focus groups to furniture selection,  this space involved more than three years of collaboration among students and staff. The Apartment Community Center boasts about 8,000 square feet of space that is available to residents and student organizations 24 hours daily. Whether students are gathered around the fire place or using one of the multiple meeting spaces, this is a resource intended to be shared by the campus community in efforts to make change on large and small scales.

The physical structure embodies elements of civic agency in both tangible and abstract ways. The openness and warmth of the great room is a perfect space for students to engage with one another around learning and development. The multipurpose rooms are a perfect space for our Community Action Boards to make meaningful progress toward fostering community through social events and programs. With the carbon neutral laundry room (one of only two in the nation with this set-up!), live green roof, and path to LEED Silver Certification (just on the cusp of gold), all community residents are invited to take care of themselves while mitigating environmental impact.

This community center is a symbol of a campus commitment to sustainability, individual and group engagement, and action toward a stronger campus community. We look forward to sharing our space with campus and seeing the dynamic connections made among members of the UMBC community.

Apartment Community Center 3

Apartment Community Center 2

Apartment Community Center 4

Contact the author, Jacki Stone, at j.stone@umbc.edu.

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