Columbia College Chicago opens first-ever Student Center

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VICE PRESIDENT OF Student Affairs Sharon Wilson-Taylor, Columbia College (from left); Alderman Sofia King (4th Ward); President Kwang-Wu Kim, Columbia College; Bill Wolf, Columbia College, Board Chair; Kierah King, Columbia College Student Government Association President and Brian Vitale, Gensler Design FirmImage cut the ribbon for the new $50 million Columbia College Student Center. (Photo Courtesy of Columbia College Chicago)

$50 million facility becomes new campus hub in the South Loop

Columbia College Chicago this week officially opened its first-ever $50 million Student Center, creating a new hub for collaboration, creativity and innovation at the heart of the college for creatives in Chicago’s South Loop.

The five-story, 114,000 square-foot building, located at 754 S. Wabash Ave., was conceptualized through “Dream Out Loud” student input sessions to better deliver the kind of space most beneficial to student success. The facility was designed by Gensler and built by Pepper Construction.

“We dreamed this building together as a college,” said Kwang-Wu Kim, president and CEO of Columbia College Chicago. “The Columbia Student Center gives everyone on campus a place to convene, learn and celebrate. It also further positions our students for post-graduation success by strengthening the bond between creative practice and career preparation.”

Reflective of Columbia’s commitment to fostering creative interaction across disciplines, inclusion, and wholesomeness, the Student Center includes a makerspace, practice rooms, a career center, game rooms and event and meeting spaces, as well as food services, a fitness center, gender-neutral restrooms, and a reflection room for meditation and prayer.

The center features large artwork by three alumni muralists. The east and south facades showcase commissioned murals by former Columbia students Jeff Zimmermann (Break Away, 2019) and Stephanie Garland (Kwe Ke Wesh, 2019). A student space on the third floor showcases Cosmic Slop “1999,” a 2010 piece by alumnus Rashid Johnson.

“The Student Center will give us, Columbia students, the opportunity to heighten our leadership skills as we grow our inclusive environment and collaborate across disciplines,”  said Kierah King, a senior majoring in dance with a minor in Black World Studies and president of the Student Government Association, whose offices are located in the Student Center. “All of this will enhance our academic growth and strengthen our creative practice.”

The Student Center also offers job opportunities for students, employing 35 student employees who will help handle programming, technology needs, hospitality and concierge services, event planning, and building and administrative support.

Only the second purpose-built facility in the college’s 129-year history, the center is part of a realignment of the Columbia College Chicago real estate portfolio to create a more compact campus.

Although the project was conducted using no public funds, Columbia committed to a women-and minority-owned businesses participation program. Twenty-two percent of project dollars went to Minority Business Enterprises and four percent to Women Owned Enterprises.

The project was funded through the sale of obsolete real estate and gifts from the Efroymson Family Fund, Anne and Barry Sabloff, Constance and Hugh Williams, the John and Patty Gehron Family, Arlen D. Rubin and Elaine Cohen Rubin, Dr. Kwang-Wu Kim, and Kathy and Rich Dowsek.

“Anne and I supported this project because we hoped it would help boost the vitality of the college and of student life,” said Barry Sabloff. “Now that we see it so joyfully activated with students, faculty, and staff, we see the project delivered on that vision, and more. The Student Center already serves as the heart of Columbia’s campus.”

In addition to the generosity of donors, Columbia’s Board Chairman, Bill Wolf underscored the truly collaborative process in which the Student Center was developed.

“We are grateful to everyone who helped make this unique facility a reality,” said Wolf. “The building is gorgeous, but what makes it truly wonderful is the creativity and energy that animate it.”

About Columbia College Chicago

Located in the heart of Chicago’s Cultural Mile, Columbia College Chicago’s downtown campus is home to approximately 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students—creative innovators who shape what’s next. Columbia offers practice-based learning with a rigorous Liberal Arts core. Faculty members are working professionals who share not only their academic and professional expertise with students but also help them connect to professional networks. The college offers programs in media and fine and performing arts, along with majors such as arts management and American Sign Language. Technology and business and entrepreneurship are embedded in the curriculum. This blend positions Columbia graduates to make their marks on both their chosen fields and the culture of their times. Ninety percent of degree holders report being employed within a year of graduation. For more information, visit colum.edu.

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