By Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor
Commuter students returned to campus Monday morning for the first day of classes to find a completely remodeled commuter center, part of a plan project manager and Duquesne graduate Greg Fuhrman oversaw this summer to bring the first floor of the student union up to date.
A stark contrast from the concrete walls and bleak lighting students were previously accustomed to, the new center is equipped with new lounging furniture and plenty of table space for homework, a kitchen and sink area, a mounted flat screen TV on the wall, hardwood floors and colored drywall.
Fuhrman said he spoke with Fr. Sean Hogan, who “felt strongly that [the lounge] is many students’ home away from home.”
In designing the new digs, Fuhrman said he aimed to replace the concrete walls that made the space feel like a basement to create an inviting environment that commuters feel comfortable to hang out in.
Fuhrman also said he believes the leveled ceilings and softer lighting will make the space feel less like a cellar and more like a hub where students who cannot walk back to the dorms can relax between classes.
Assistant President for Student Life Cheryl Knoch, who assisted in the planning for the revamping of the entire first floor, said Duquesne’s plan is “to improve the housing facilities as well as those for commuter students.”
“We need a place for them to just be able to lounge, study, eat or sleep if need be,” Knoch said. “It really needed updated.”
The committee chosen for the renovations has been planning this project for years now, according to Knoch, but students seem to be very pleased with not only the new look in the lounge, but also on the rest of the floor.
Student body president Attila Mihalik said he believes the lounge is “very modern and classy and represents Duquesne very well.”
“I believe Duquesne has really addressed the problem with making commuters staying on campus in between class, with the option of brand new lockers and disability accessibility,” Mihalik said. “The atmosphere is really inviting for students to just come down there and hang out.”
During the day, the commuter center is now full of students scrambling to print out PowerPoints in the lab, relaxing in between classes during the lunch hour or catching up on the latest news on SportsCenter.
John Vater, a freshman who arrived on campus more than a week ago, said he is impressed with the new facilities.
“It looks nice – from what everybody’s said, it’s a big upgrade,” Vater said “I have a lot of time off, so I go to the fish bowl to do homework but I come down here and socialize.”
Michael Curcio, another freshman new to the Bluff, shared the same sentiments.
“If I have time between my classes, I come down here to socialize because there’s people to talk to, but it’s quiet enough that you can do work if you want,” Curcio said.
Gina DeRenzo, president of the commuter council, said the new set up has made the first floor a better place for more students to hang out on campus, not just commuters.
“We kind of make it more welcoming to resident students as well,” she said. “We had residents down last night for an ice cream social and PB and J [Tuesday] night.”
DeRenzo also indicated that the council has changed the furniture’s layout in the new space since the renovation to create a more positive environment to be in between classes for those who can’t just go back to their dorm.
“Since the renovation the furniture has a different set up and its more open and welcoming,” DeRenzo said. “In that sense I think it’s just one big open area where there’s not little groups forming or class division.”