The fire is warm. The lattes are freshly brewed. Chatter about theology and church mission is overheard, and a fresh energy fills the air. The Charles and Sharon Olson Commons and Cafच is more than a traditional coffee shop.
It is a unique and special place for the Luther Seminary community. It is a space in which future church leaders are being formed.
"It's great to talk and learn in a place of energy and conversation," said Christine Hallenbeck, Master of Arts junior. "It's not every coffee shop where you overhear conversations about Luther's doctrine of justification."
The Olson Campus Center renovation, made possible by generous donor support, was completed in October and has quickly given students a new place for study and discipleship.
Donor support provides renovations to meet learning needs outside the classroom
Providing students both the physical and technological resources to help them prepare for ministry in the 21st century church is of critical importance. Because of this, gifts to support building renovations, like the OCC, are vital to Luther's mission of preparing leaders to serve the church.
Students prepare for ministry through a collaborative model of learning, which emphasizes both formal learning in the classroom as well as informal learning through relationship building. The OCC remodel creates an environment for students to engage in informal learning as they join together for discipleship groups and collegial gatherings. Additionally, it provides technological upgrades that enhance traditional classroom learning.
"Investing in well-designed buildings not only facilitates excellent learning in the resources they provide, but also represents our core values—developing a sense of community, providing a quality of life and creating a place for students to build relationships with each other," said Roland Martinson, academic dean.
"Students are now studying in the upstairs of the OCC in the evening and gathering in nooks and working together during the day. Construction like the Olson Campus Center remodel creates buildings that embody teaching and learning—the core mission of this place."
Bridge to a living room
President Bliese notes that he has already seen the dramatic change the remodel has made on campus. "The Olson Campus Center renovation has transformed life on campus. No doubt about it," Bliese said.
"Since October, I have regularly received spontaneous accolades from students, staff and faculty about how they are using the new space. Everybody uses different words, but in essence they acknowledge that the building that once served as a bridge between the two sides of campus has now become their living room. That's where we all want to spend time, both in conversation and in study—together, around the fire, in the campus living room."
Hallenbeck notes that having the new "living room" space is already changing her study patterns in positive ways.
"Just recently I opted to write a paper in the OCC instead of the library," she said. "As I thought of writing about engaging in the church and the world, I wanted to sit in a space that felt a bit more connected than the library. Don't get me wrong, the library is a wonderful place, but I feed off the energy of conversations and activity. The OCC is a great place for that energy."
For this attractive, new place to gather and learn, students are extremely thankful.
"The renovation has been such a blessing for the seminary community," Kyle Svennungsen, Master of Divinity middler, said. "We are so grateful to God who worked through our generous donors to create such a beautiful and useful space."
For more photos of the OCC renovation, visit www.flickr.com/photos/lutherseminary. Choose Sets, then choose 2011 OCC Construction Photos.