G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center
A student center is a facility devoted to student recreation and socialization through activities such as dining, entertainment, recreation, fitness, and gathering. For decades at Anderson University, these types of activities existed in several different locations across campus, leading to a disjointed campus community. In addition, the primary dining hall in the Merritt Administration Building was built in 1911 and provided seating for only 280 students at a time.
With enrollment topping 3,400, the need for a centralized facility for student activities was greater than ever. At the end of 2010, during the centennial celebration, the university started planning and raising the estimated funds needed to complete construction. As one long-serving retiree said, “We’ve been talking about a new student center for 40 years. It looks like it’s finally going to become a reality.”
The firm won over Anderson University with its experience with similar facilities and its commitment to designing with the end user in mind. The first order of business was to determine where the student center would be located. The firm developed a master plan that considered the recent acquisition of 77 acres known then as the Anderson County Fairgrounds and the gift of 125 acres by longtime friends and supporters of the university, John and Marie Pracht. Without these acquisitions, which nearly quadrupled the campus acreage, a new student center would likely be an impossibility.
The master plan revealed two possible locations for the student center: the site of the Merritt Administration Building and the site of the present softball field. The softball field presented the best location to pursue the university’s long-range vision of creating a centralized campus green that would function as the campus epicenter. The selection of the softball field for the new student center also meant that the softball field and adjacent tennis courts would have to be relocated. The firm took on this challenge by designing an Athletic Campus on the old Anderson County Fairgrounds site, completing the project in 2015.
Prior to construction of the student center, the firm consulted students, faculty, staff, and university stakeholders to ensure the end result was a student-centric building that embodied Anderson University’s community-focused vision.
In July of 2016, students, faculty, and staff were welcomed by a two-story lobby space with two fireplaces, coordinating lounge areas, and wall-sized media displays. A sprawling, 600-seat dining commons offers 5,000 square feet of space to eat, socialize, study, and relax. The dining hall features multiple meal options from the healthy Mongolian Grille to wood-fired pizza to made-to-order food stations.
Student-centric spaces fill the facility including a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment, a multimedia game room with pool and ping pong tables, a 400-seat banquet facility, a 400-seat auditorium that can be used as a movie theater or lecture hall, a bookstore stocked with pride-evoking products, and national food concepts Chick-fil-A and Einstein Bros. Bagels. Additional campus life and common areas include executive dining; student development, government, and activities room; and career services and staff offices.
The buzzing, 86,000-square-foot G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center—named in honor of United States District Judge G. Ross Anderson Jr., the driving force of Anderson University’s mission—has set the stage for future development on campus. The new campus green in front of the student center boasts water features, pathways lined with memorable quotes from C.S. Lewis, and slate pavers engraved with the Seven Cardinal and Heavenly Virtues, creating a campus plaza that epitomizes the commitment to community that Anderson University promises.
Students now have a centralized place to stay fueled and fit, giving them the energy to make the most out of campus life, whether planning for a student organization event, making lasting friendships over a game of pool, or studying for the upcoming economics exam.
Anderson University is an academic institution that takes pride in functioning as a community rather than a conglomerate; focusing on the development of character, servant leadership, and cultural engagement. Not only in the center of campus, the G. Ross Anderson Jr. Student Center is central to the mission of the flourishing university community which surrounds it.