This past summer the College of Optometry freshened up the spaces around Marillac Hall. Ask many of the first graduating class from UMSL Optometry, and they will tell you that Marillac Hall was to be a temporary location. Fast-forward 30+ years, and we are still here. With Dean Larry Davis’s vision and the workings of several folks in the college, it was time to give current students additional places to study and for the pre-clinic to become a more inviting space.
Spearheading this renovation was Director of Student and Alumni Services Nick Palisch, along with Janice White, who helped with the design and color palette. Several work study students also assisted in the project over the summer. The creation of new study spaces included input from a student committee and several months of discussion.
The facelift for the second floor included new study spaces, general meeting space, and additional pre-clinic lanes (from 11 to 22). Within the second floor, new lighting fixtures are in each exam lane, the hallway and study spaces. Jacob Moore (‘21) commented, “The new pre-clinic is such a massive improvement over what it used to be! I think the new lighting that is more controllable and the new VA charts are the two best additions, because these will be mimicking what we will likely be using in our practice in the future! The refreshed design makes it a more enjoyable area to practice and learn! The new study space allows and encourages more on-campus study and activity. I never feel like I have to worry about trying to find somewhere to study.” A fresh coat of paint on the second floor, along with new furniture, new digital acuity charts in each exam room, and new flooring took the dated and dark space and rejuvenated it to a bright, fresh, welcoming one.
In addition to the second floor, new study spaces are now on the fourth floor. The boards’ practice room relocated to a larger space on the fourth floor. The ground floor outside the classrooms and into the Focal Point (former student lounge) received new furniture as well. Nick Palisch said, “We looked at all available spaces throughout Marillac Hall and tried to maximize each space to meet the needs of our students.”
The remodel, along with the new furniture, also aids in the recruitment and admission process. Erin Huie (’21) agreed: “The new pre-clinic and study spaces are going to be a large draw for potential students that are considering coming to UMSL and are great spaces to accommodate our current students.” The remodel space and furniture also promotes collaboration among students. “They allow for a lot more collaboration between multiple people,” Moore said.
The renovation eased a growing concern among the students—space. The new spaces help to give more students the ability to be able to stay on campus and study. Krystal Matson (’20) has utilized the space and agreed: “The new study rooms are a fantastic (and much needed) addition to UMSL! There is plenty of space to go around – we are no longer fighting for study space! I love all the contemporary furniture patterns and colors. The ground floor booths are my favorite.” By thinking outside of the box, the college was able to triple the number of seats for students to find a place to study, relax, nap, eat, and socialize. “The creation of various types of study space and rooms was important because everyone studies differently, and students have different needs. I believe after months of planning and installation we have met the majority of students’ wish-list items for study space at the College of Optometry,” Palisch said. Emily Nelsen (’21) added, “The new rooms provide more space and options of areas for us to study. All of the outlets are great, as I am usually in the same spot for a long time, and need to be able to charge my electronics. The white boards are very helpful for us to bring together concepts from lectures and allow us see the big picture. The different sizes of rooms, number of tables, booths, and heights of chairs make it possible for us to study in groups or quietly by ourselves, as well as get a change of scenery.”
Over the past few years, the number of students studying on campus has grown, but the spaces remained limited. Students were finding any empty rooms they could to study. For many students, studying on campus is ideal. Scott Mogavero (’21) said, “I study on campus every day, including weekends, and feel that this campus is a productive safe place to learn and grow.” Providing students with the ideal setting and space was an important investment for the college; it is showing a positive return by students who are using the space daily.
The increased space for clinical exam rooms and the digital acuity charts afford the students the ability to spread out during pre-clinic and outside of class to practice without having to wait for an exam lane to open up. “The digital acuity charts, new exam room lighting, and more lanes allows for our students to be able to better prepare themselves for seeing patients, and the newly remodeled pre-clinic now meets that standard,” Palisch said. The overall reaction from faculty, staff and students has been overwhelmingly positive. The new spaces and bright colors have made the College of Optometry even better for learning and collaboration for years to come.