By Karen Dyer
Imagine. It’s autumn at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The leaves have begun to turn, the sky is a clear blue, the shadows are long and the grounds are as magnificent as ever.
There is a crisp, fall feeling in the air.
You put on your favorite Woodsie sweatshirt with a matching SMWC face mask as you head outside for a nice walk across campus.
Wait, is that a jackhammer? And, what’s that “beep, beep, beep” backing up sound?
Yes, it is fall, and it is beautiful. And, that cacophony is a part of the experience of a growing Woods as the grounds are filled with the sights and sounds of a construction project fully underway on the south lawn.
The College broke ground in June 2020 on a new residence and dining hall as a significant move to expand on-campus housing with the addition of a 92-bed facility that will offer suite-style rooms with mini-kitchens and living rooms.
The facility is set to open to students in the fall of 2021.
“We’re on a growth trajectory at The Woods, and this new facility along with capital updates and renovations to Hulman Hall, Le Fer Hall, Rooney Library and the Conservatory are evidence of our measured, strategic work,” said Dottie King, Ph.D., president. “It’s not just capital improvements — we’ve added new academic programs, new athletic teams and community initiatives, such as our work to connect the campus to the regional trail system, all of which are driving growth. There is not one area across this campus that remains untouched by the progress we’re making as a College for our students and for our future.”
Integral in bringing this project to fruition, Jim Schmidt, president of University Housing Solutions, said that he and his business partner, Frank Murphy, became involved with The Woods because of their firm commitment to Catholic education.
“We are investing in the mission of the College because we share the same Catholic foundation. We are so excited about our partnership,” said Schmidt, who joined King in turning a shovelful of dirt to mark the occasion in June.
Schmidt made a surprise announcement of a $500,000 gift for the project during the groundbreaking ceremony.
“Enrollment has been a priority since the launch of the strategic plan, and many of the strategies we’ve employed are helping the College realize the need for expanded facilities across the board for academics, athletics and housing,” said Brennan Randolph, vice president for enrollment management and institutional technology.
The strategic plan, launched in 2015, is now in its second phase as the Aspire Even Higher Strategic Plan.
The foundation of the building was set in mid-September and blessed by King as she placed several significant items in the cornerstone: a cross, an acorn and a small statue of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.
“This building, that will welcome students for decades to come, is part of God’s Providence, and His plan which you put in motion 180 years ago,” said King during the blessing, referencing Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s founding of the College. “May all who study and live here be blessed. May they be inspired by you. May they be seekers of knowledge and light. May they use their Woods foundation to effect positive change in this world.”
The building will also allow the College to enhance the student dining experience by providing a modern space with amenities commensurate with expectations of today’s students. Food separation for allergies and sensitivities, longer service hours for students with varied schedules, grab-n-go options and a student-union like feel are among the updates that will come with this new space.
The College bookstore will be prominently located at the north corner of the new building. The bookstore move from Hulman Hall will create much-needed space for new laboratories and classrooms as part of the expansion of the nursing program, the College’s largest enrolled major.
The building’s design includes a Celtic cross imbedded in the light-colored brick and arched windows, tying it architecturally to Le Fer Hall, Guerin Hall and the Conservatory. The cross is patterned from those located atop several historic structures.
“We are making way for a future that is robust and exciting, and I cannot wait to see what we’ll do next” said King.
So, as you take that imaginary walk around campus, you might hear “The Bells of St. Mary’s” ringing in the Church of the Immaculate Conception and see the red leaves falling around Le Fer Lake, to take from the Ring Song, in addition to those sights and sounds of construction.
And, you may take heart in knowing that the sounds of progress mean the future is bright in your Woods world.
Read the Full Issue
Now branded Onyx Anneau, the fall edition has a refreshed look that includes stories from alumni, students and highlights employees. It focuses on the growth of the College through the construction of a new residence and dining hall. Dottie King, Ph.D., shares her 10 years of experience as president of SMWC. It also features stories of alumnae who are working on bettering their community through office.