William & Mary: Sadler Center expansion to add to ‘amazing student experience’

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The grand entrance to William & Mary’s new Sadler Center addition is located directly across a brick pathway from the front doors of the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center and a matter of steps from the Campus Living Center in the former student health center building.

Also within a short walk of the new Sadler entrance are the Cohen Career Center, Zable Stadium and the Daily Grind. These buildings together, along with the Sadler Terrace, have been proudly dubbed, “the student life neighborhood,” by Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler.

The Sadler Center expansion is open for business just in time for the start of the fall semester, completing a vision conceived decades ago of a centerpiece of activity in the heart of W&M’s campus.

“It is a dream come true in so many ways,” said Ambler, who recently gave the building’s namesake, retired Vice President of Student Affairs Sam Sadler, a tour. “He and I worked together for a lot of years over in the Campus Center, and both of us just had this feeling of deep satisfaction that our students are getting a building and resources that they deserve for the most amazing student experience.

“We know students have a remarkable educational experience at William & Mary, and now we have facilities that can really add to that.”

The three-story, 53,000-square-foot addition is “open and airy,” says Kimberly L. Weatherly, assistant dean and director of the Center for Student Diversity, with spaces and state-of-the-art amenities for all to share. A walk down its long, glass-paneled hallway, named the “Student Life Concourse,” presents students, faculty and staff the opportunity to visit an assortment of offices, meeting rooms, study halls and lounges.

“Student unions help make memories and build community on campuses,” said Eric Margiotta, director of Student Unions & Engagement. “Sometimes we call the Sadler Center a ‘House of Serendipity’ because you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen around the corner. There’s always going to be something fun and different and exciting.”

Home in the heart of campus
The Sadler expansion is the new home to many departments, such as the Center for Student Diversity, the Dean of Students Office and Student Leadership Development, that were once located at the Campus Center on the periphery of campus. And the Campus Living Center is now the headquarters for Housing & Residence Life and Student Transition Engagement Programs (STEP). In all, more than a dozen units that directly serve students moved to more centralized locations when the $38 million Sadler construction project was completed recently after breaking ground in November 2020.

“Being located in the heart of campus for a student-facing office will be a game changer,” said Anne Arseneau, director of Student Leadership Development. “We’re getting to do more proactive collaboration with the colleagues that we share opportunities to support students with, so I think that will be a win across the board.”

The Sadler expansion also includes a prayer and meditation room on the third floor with an ablution station, kneeling pads and privacy curtains, and an art gallery on the second floor will feature student art. Artwork on loan from the Muscarelle Museum of Art and the President’s Collection of Art will be on display throughout the building, Margiotta said.

Moreover, there are broadcast and recording studios for student media and an informal space on the second floor called The Slice for musical acts and speakers to perform.

“This is a student life building, in the student life neighborhood,” said Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Drew Stelljes. “Along with our neighbors in the Cohen Career Center, Campus Living Center and McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, our neighborhood is now complete. This is the students’ neighborhood. We are honored to join them on their journey.”

The Sadler Center construction project also included improvements to the original Sadler Center building, such as new carpet and flooring in most common areas, fresh coats of paint and new furniture.

The floor in the Tidewater Ballroom was transformed from carpet to a hard surface to accommodate dance groups, and the James and York rooms also received new carpet and paint.

The Sadler Center dining hall will have a new name, Food Hall at Sadler, and Aromas coffee shop is coming to Lodge 1 on the first floor. Dining and drink plans are available for both locations, including new all-access options along with unlimited Drips & Sips.

“I’m just as in love with all the work we were able to do in the existing building,” Margiotta said.

Margiotta said a considerable focus of the project was to make the existing building and new addition blend together smoothly.

“It was a lot of work to do, to be honest with you, to make it feel seamless so you don’t think you’re walking into a different building,” Margiotta said. “The flooring is the same; the paint colors are the same; all the places you interact with are the same palette with the same fixtures and finishes.”

‘See and be seen’
Amber Hall, senior project manager in Facilities Planning, Design & Construction, said a major architectural goal of the new addition was for students, faculty and staff to “see and be seen.”

Many of the relocated departments are now in areas where walk-in traffic will be plentiful, compared to previous locations.

“This is prime real estate,” Weatherly said of the new office. “Students really thought we were living on the moon before.”

Student feedback was sought in selecting new furniture in common areas – they sampled items in Sadler’s atrium and voted for their favorites via QR codes – and faculty and staff worked closely with architects to determine optimal office locations and desired furniture.

“I have been able to explore a lot of the building, and what jumps out to me the most is that it truly feels like a space that is designed for students,” said Hayden Cochran M.Ed. ’23. “The way that each office is different and has elements that fit their exact needs and even seeing electrical outlets placed all along the walls for study spaces shows that a lot of thought went into the overall design.

“Some of my favorite moments are when I watch other students see the building for the first time and all the ideas that immediately jump into their heads on how they will use the new space.”

Offices that often work collaboratively were put in close proximity to each other, which was also the case with Housing & Residence Life and STEP in the Campus Living Center.

“I think first and foremost, it’s allowing for closer collaboration between STEP and Residence Life,” said STEP Director Lauren Garrett. “We’re part of the same thematic area in Student Affairs, and being able to co-locate and work more closely together, especially when we consider that Residence Life is the cornerstone of the incoming student and student experience at William & Mary, this is going to mean hopefully good things for us moving forward and making sure that we’re aligning learning outcomes and opportunities for student engagement.”

Harriet Kandell, director of Housing & Residence Life, said the one-story Campus Living Center was re-designed to include all the resources needed, including the Center for Community Development, in one open and collaborative location.

And new amenities were added, such as an outdoor patio in the front of the building for special events.

“One of the lessons learned from COVID is that having suitable outdoor spaces is critical to being able to continue your programs and processes and operations,” said Associate Vice President for Campus Living Maggie Burkhart Evans.

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