Source: The Atlanta Journal - Constitution
By Laura Raines
Courses like accounting and management principles may help students get a job, but they aren’t likely to rank among the most memorable college experiences. It’s more likely to be late-night pizza parties, an amazing spring concert or playing for an intramural flag football team that student will remember.
College is a lot more than classes and dorm life. Amenities such as recreation centers, rock-climbing walls, art galleries and concert halls have been growing on campuses for more than 20 years, said Michael Edwards, director of Georgia Tech’s Campus Recreation Center (CRC).
“They aren’t there just to provide fun and games for the students,” he said. “They’re about growing and learning.”
Georgia Tech’s 300,000-square-foot CRC — with its Olympic and family indoor pools, state-of-the-art fitness center, basketball courts, dance studios, inline hockey rink and elevated four-lane track that offers one of the best views of the city — wows prospective students, Edwards said.
“They’re impressed and we believe it weighs in their college-decision process, but we also know that it helps us retain students,” he said. “The CRC is a lot more than a big, sweaty gym; it’s a living experiential, educational classroom where students can relieve stress, experience community, interact with a diverse world and learn life skills.”
As part of its Healthy Lifestyle Programs, the CRC sponsors backpacking, kayaking and mountain biking trips. Its international adventure program takes students to China and elsewhere to learn about leadership, problem-solving and decision-making across cultures. Students can participate in intramural and club-level sports of all kinds, and fitness programs such as spinning and yoga classes. The more than 300 students who work part time in the CRC are learning work ethics and business skills that transfer directly to the workplace.
“We know from our data that frequent users of our facility have higher GPAs. Healthier people perform better. We’re helping to develop the mind, body and spirit in order to develop the whole student,” Edwards said. “We know that we bring a great deal of value to the university’s strategic plan to promote lifelong learning.”
Everyone has to eat, but Jeanne Fry and her staff has turned food services into an art at the University of Georgia. UGA Food Services has won 77 national awards for its meal plans, menus, unique initiatives and special events.
“Students text, tweet and email constantly, but our four dining commons, food courts and other campus restaurants are places where students meet face-to-face,” said Fry, executive director of UGA Food Services. “We want them to feel comfortable eating, staying and visiting with their friends. I consider this their kitchen and dining room, so we listen to suggestions and keep up with trends.”
UGA’s four dining commons feature soft seating, Wi-Fi connections and abundant culinary choices. Hungry students can sate their appetites with sushi, fresh-made pizza, fried chicken, meatloaf, Southern vegetables, burgers or sweet potato fries. There are vegan and low-fat options, as well.
Regular themed events keep dining interesting. The recent Tango Argentina event featured authentic roasted recipes and free tango lessons provided by university dance clubs.
Snelling Commons is open 24 hours a day and has become the place for late-night “Snellabrations,” which often show up on student Facebook pages or videos.
“We recently had a bride and groom pose for wedding pictures in front of Giorgio’s Pizza [in Snelling Commons],” Fry said. “They met standing in line. Food is an important part of the college experience.”
So is music, and Clayton State University students have a “jewel of a music hall,” where they can enjoy folk, classical, jazz and opera performances , said Sam Dixon, executive director of Spivey Hall. Sparked by a gift of Emilie Spivey, the 400-seat concert hall is considered world class for its technically advanced acoustics and 4,413-pipe Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ. Spivey Hall concerts by Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Andre Watts, Andrea Scholl, The King’s Singers and others have been taped for the BBC.
But the performances are enjoyed first by the community and Clayton State students.
“Students usually come to college with their own musical preferences, but this is a time of tremendous discovery and exploration in their lives,” Dixon said. “So, they often leave with new favorites.
“Many students have never heard an organ outside of church. Hearing our amazing instrument in a concert setting can be a wonderful, new experience.”
Any student enrolled in music appreciation class can attend concerts for free, but all students may attend with a guest for $10 a ticket. The same performances would average $100 a ticket at Carnegie Hall or the Metropolitan Opera. Young audience educational concerts are just $2 for students, and they can always attend music department recitals and performances for free.
“We’ve reduced the price barriers to great music, so if students have the time and the interest they will find tremendous opportunities to enrich their college experience here,” Dixon said.