New Extended Learning Building draws praise, some criticism

The new $80 million Extended Learning Building has some staff and students garnering praise for its modern design and accessibility to many programs in a single space. But a few students said improvements need to be made.   


The new building, located in the North City San Marcos neighborhood on Barham Street, across from The Quad, opened as the fall 2019 semester began — though only the second through sixth floors are completed. The first floor, which will mostly house private businesses, and the connecting bridge from the second floor across Barham are still under construction, but will be completed this October.


Architect Graham Gilchrist’s design of the mostly glass building includes multiple study areas, a partially open second floor, bright lights and splashes of lime green and orange throughout the space. North of the building is a six floor parking structure. 


In interviews last week, some staff praised the building, which was developed as a joint public/private development through Project Manager Billy Lydon and North City, for its updated, student-friendly and stylish design.


“This space is amazing. It’s light-filled, student friendly. It’s high-tech. There’s a place for students to microwave and store food,” said Hilary Taylor, an Academic Success Facilitator, “… It’s really, really, really positive to work here, and I think the students are liking it, too.”


Programs that provide various resources for students are now conveniently located from the second to fifth floors, with the sixth being home to some academic departments and Extended Learning offices. Main classrooms are located from the third to fifth floors.


The STEM Success Center and Academic Success Center, programs that previously worked together but were located on opposite sides of campus, are now neighbors on the second floor.


“Let’s say someone comes here and is like ‘I want tutoring in math,’ I could physically walk them the 20 feet to the STEM tutoring center area, instead of just telling them and they’d have to walk across campus for 15 minutes,” said Taylor.


While some agreed that the Extended Learning Building was more convenient, other students said that there are some improvements needed.


“It’s a really nice building but it definitely still has some kinks to work out,” said Brooke Rockot, a speech-language pathology grad student. 


She said the classroom doors on the third floor don’t shut at the same time. “And if they do there is this really weird sound and it’s almost like the room is too pressurized,” she said.


Rockot also said the air conditioning is problematic and the restrooms are inconvenient.


“When I get into class, it feels like it’s very hot, and then as class goes on, then it’s, like, so cold that I need to put on my cardigan,” said Rockot, “…The placement of the bathrooms is a little bit odd… There are only restrooms at, like, one end of the hallway instead of both.”


Others said that while they thought the new building was convenient for those who parked in the adjacent parking structure, it might not be convenient for other students on the other side of campus.


Andre Dominguez, a first-year biochemistry major, said, “I think it looks very nice and… I hear some people complain about having to walk off campus to get here, but I don’t find it too bad myself because I park right there… and there’s always parking in there.”