MUSCATINE — With some degree of nerve and teenage will, Tony Robles and Jensen Nading walked through the front doors of Loper Hall. They are both 18. They are both taking general education classes at Muscatine Community College. And though the building wouldn't open for students for another two weeks, they couldn't wait that long.
Robles and Nading were wide-eyed. The tall bookshelf that obscured the insides in a canopy of tombs was cut down. In its place, waist high shelves and along the windows booths with an electrical outlet at each table capable of simultaneously charging a laptop, an iPad, a cellphone, and a unprepared reporter's recorder.
New study rooms, for a single person or multiple. Screens that can receive images from cellphones with a swipe. Many new offices. And a café.
"It's really cozy," Robles said. "I doesn't look at all like before. It was just really cool to see."
"I'm surprised that they changed so much," Nading said. "I think it's going to be a really handy space to have between classes."
Muscatine Community College cut the ribbon on this and much more Thursday night in the newly renovated Loper Hall. The $1.5 million renovation project began just this year. The event gave community members a chance to walk through both floors and check out some of the new technology it will house.
"It was originally going to be just new paint and carpeting," said Nancy Luikart, assistant dean at the college. "When they asked me what I wanted, I made a list: technology, electricity, comfortable seating, something open. A place you can come in and stay. That's what I wanted."
Though the school is still moving books and other resources back from storage, for the first time the facility's collaboration room was demonstrated.
"It's is for student use, not for class," Naomi DeWinter, president of Muscatine Community College, said. "We have technology in there that allows for students to collaborate with each others' devices. Imagine group work on class projects. Students can take turns throwing their work on the screen, helping them collaborate with one another."
In addition, the school set up a "One Button" recording studio.
"Say you are practicing for a speech and you want to hear and see yourself practice," DeWinter said. "You go into the room, press one button and the recording begins."
Students bring a flash drive or USB storage device into the studio. They plug it into a port, press a button, and the lights adjust, cameras turn on, and the recording begins. Students then can view the recording at their leisure and work to improve on their performance.
DeWinter said that it was clear in the old design that the emphasis was placed on the library.
"The library was clearly the large part of the building," DeWinter said. "If you wanted tutoring, you had to go down a long, narrow hallway in order to find the right room. We've really expanded that. It's one big wide open space now that is open to everyone.
"As far as retaining students, the more time they spend on campus engaging with faculty and students, the more their retention is in our favor," DeWinter said. "As we were designing the building, looking to make it functional, we wanted it to also be a place that students could be proud of. A place students want to be affiliated with."