ACUI Members Visit Atlanta for Prep Course on New Projects

Over 20 ACUI members from 13 different institutions gathered in Atlanta earlier this month to attend the Renovation & Construction Seminar, an event that offered education sessions, tours, roundtables, keynotes, and expert panels. Guest speakers attended from Auburn University, East Carolina University, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Georgia State University. Corporate sponsors for the three-day event included Cooper Carry, Perkins & Will, RecRe, and Workshop Architects.

“The timing of this seminar was perfect for me as we have an upcoming project,” said Mariel Pagán Smith, Ph.D., assistant vice president for student engagement at Coastal Carolina Community. One of the highlights for Pagán Smith was visiting Emory University’s Cox Hall Identity Spaces, a recently completed project that provides engagement space for affinity groups like LGBT Life, Centro Latinx, the Asian Student Center, the Emory Black Student Union, and the Center for Women. First generation and limited-income students gather at a space in the third-floor complex called Emory First.

A view of one of the lounges inside Georgia Tech’s CODA at Tech Square in Midtown Atlanta. ACUI members toured the innovation center earlier this month as part of the Association’s Renovation & Construction Seminar.

“The tour of the spaces that were created was inspiring and provided a tangible example of successful student engagement in design,” said Pagán Smith.” The insights gained from that session will undoubtedly inform our decision-making process.”

The Cox Hall Identity Spaces project earned architects Perkins & Will and Emory University ACUI’s 2024 Facility Design Award for projects completed for under $25 million.

Attendees also visited Georgia Tech’s John Lewis Student Center and Stamps Commons, a five-building complex of over 200,000-square-feet completed in 2022 in a collaboration with Cooper Carry, and the university’s Coda at Tech Square project, a multi-tenant innovation center in Midtown Atlanta. The center and commons served as the hub for the first two days of the seminar and was the location for educational sessions, several meals, and a panel on working with architects and contractors. The final day of the event was hosted at Emory University, where participants toured the Cox Hall Identity Spaces and the Emory Student Center, and then learned how representatives from Perkins & Will engaged Emory students during the Cox Hall project.

Presenters from nine member institutions and corporate partners offered sessions on topics like Project Team Dynamics, Stakeholder Engagement, Operational Budgeting, Financing and Fundraising, and Value Engineering. RecRe added to the fun by sponsoring an evening social event at the Lewis Student Center’s Tech Rec space that offered billiards, bowling, and other recreational amenities.

Barb Carlton, associate director of facilities and event services at James Madison University, said the entire seminar offered insights that would provide future benefits for her office of student life.

“I found all of the information useful since we are just scratching the surface of thinking about construction and renovation,” she said. “A renovation and construction project will take time so we should probably start finding information about (today’s) middle school students since they will be the ones using the facility.”

Other tips she picked up on: “Communication is key,” and “Celebrate the little joys along the way.”


  • Steve Chaplin

    Steve Chaplin is managing editor of ACUI’s The Bulletin and manager of the ACUI College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. A former newspaper writer, editor, and manager, he has volunteered as a student mentor as a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and received awards for his writing and reporting from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Press Association.

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