Renovated Westerlin lounge open

Renovated+Westerlin+lounge+open

Thea Gonzales

Students and staff take advantage of the new renovations in the Westerlin lounge. Photo by Thea Gonzales.
Students and staff take advantage of the new renovations in the Westerlin lounge. Photo by Thea Gonzales.

Westerlin’s newly-renovated lounge was opened to the student body for the first time this school year on Wednesday.
The decision to renovate the Westerlin lounge was a decision that Area Coordinator of First-Year Experience, Michelle Mason, said came from wanting the kind of spaces that Erickson and Andreen had for Westerlin.
“We saw this place as a really good opportunity that students could have in Westerlin. The Andreen hall has recently been updated, and Erickson’s basement is another great space that has recently undergone changes. We were lacking that, so we wanted to make this a functional space for students,” Mason said.
Upon entering the lounge for the reception, students expressed their approval of the new space and immediately started using it to work on homework or meet with friends. Some of the words used to describe the updated lounge were “spacious,” “modern,” and “so IKEA.”
Around the perimeter of the room are booths and benches that have built-in outlets for devices at every station. Toward the window are more relaxed areas with high-backed chairs arranged in a circle, and in the middle are circular tables that can be moved around and arranged in any setup.
The most notable change in the lounge was the inclusion of contemporarily designed furniture that Director of Residential Life, Chris Beyer, hopes will allow the room to be used flexibly for a variety of functions, be they social or academic.
“We wanted a room that would work well for whatever students wanted to do, and that’s one of the reasons we got movable furniture. The idea was to place stationary furniture around the edges of the room, so if you wanted study space, it would be there. But then, everything else in the middle is meant to be moved, so if you need a place for four people to sit and work on a project, you can do that. If you want to push all the tables to the side or set up a buffet line or a circle, the furniture gives you options,” Beyer said.
Toward the end of winter term and the beginning of spring term last year, Beyer and Mason started having design meetings because of the length of time it would take for the furniture to arrive. The process took months to plan, and an interior designer was consulted to decide which furniture types would be most functional and visually appropriate for the area.
Plans to have the lounge ready by move-in day were delayed by I-Wing’s renovation, but Mason hopes that the space will be a tool that students utilize throughout the year — especially with midterms coming up. She also thinks that the lounge will reduce the amount of noise disturbances in the residence halls, opening up more places for students to study.
“I think it’s going to help…it does tend to be a little louder because we have so many people trying to study in their rooms, and especially now, we’re getting into midterm time. I think having the ability to have a room like this and close the doors is going to give an opportunity to have separate places for if you want to be a little bit louder– maybe in the lobby areas– vs. in here, where it’s a little bit more of a quiet area,” Mason said.
Several students studied alone on the benches or middle tables while others met in groups to check out the space. Alexis Ryckaert, a first-year student who was one of the first to use the new lounge, feels good about the new addition to Westerlin and is planning on coming to study there more in the future.
“Some of this stuff looks like strictly study space: there are outlets and stuff for people to work, but I think there’s room for people to do anything here,” Ryckaert said.
The lounge is open to anyone with an Augustana ID and has no set hours, so both students and programs are given full use of the space at any time. Student organizations and community advisors will host programs throughout the year in the lounge, but all students are still welcome to use the space during those programs.
“Our community advisors have programs: I know last year the programs we had were educational programs, but we also had a Super Bowl party and other events like that. They’re currently working on a Voting 101 program that would be talking about how to register to vote and learning about the candidates in general, and so I think that’s something the space will be utilized for. Sometimes there are fun, social programs, and sometimes there are educational speakers, ” Mason said.
One of the major missing features of the Westerlin lounge is the infamous piano. Both Beyer and Mason are aware of its disappearance and are still looking at other additions to the space that will “brighten it up a little more,” including paint for the light fixtures and the possible recovery of the piano, which is not technically Westerlin’s but Augustana property.
“The important thing is having this space open for students throughout the year. We’re looking at additional touch-ups, but we just wanted to have this space open right now for students to take advantage of,” Mason said.