IGC invites student use

By Matea Wasend

Macalester saw the addition of the Institute for Global Citizenship’s building on campus this year, but there are many students who have yet to set foot inside. “Just last week there were probably three students who came in for the first time,” said Ricardo Millhouse ’13, who works at Markim Hall’s front desk.

The pristine $7.5 million building is surprisingly quiet inside, a fact that Karin Trail-Johnson, associate dean of the IGC and director of the Civic Engagement Center, attributed to thick walls and windows. Students trickle through, Millhouse said, generally on their way to a class or to one of the building’s five offices.

In an interview with The Mac Weekly before Markim Hall was completed, Trail-Johnson stressed that an important feature of the building would be open spaces available to students. Davis Court in particular, she said, would “function as a place for homework and conversation.”

Millhouse estimated that he sees about 15 students walk through the front doors in a two-hour shift. He said he has never seen any use the building as a space for homework.

“I think students probably don’t go in there because no one knows what it’s for,” Will Dhonau ’12 said. “The name is kind of off-putting.”

Trail-Johnson agreed that Markim Hall has not seen much casual use by students as a homework or conversation spot. She speculated that this is partly due to the fact that the building has been closing at 5 p.m. on weekdays and has been closed weekends for “technical reasons.”

However, she said that in the next week or two the building hours will be expanded. The first floor will soon be open until 10 p.m. weeknights and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

“I think [students don’t use Markim Hall] because it’s so new,” Millhouse said. “I think that will change.”

Trail-Johnson invited students to use Davis Court and the conference rooms as long as they are not reserved. She also pointed out that the outdoor patio between Markim Hall and Kagin is a great “reflective nook” where students can do homework or eat lunch when the weather permits.

“We want the building to be a welcoming space for the whole campus,” Trail-Johnson said.

She also invited student groups to host meetings or events in the conference rooms, which can be reserved through the department coordinators. However, she emphasized that while some of the building’s departments use the conference rooms for weekly meetings, the rooms are mostly intended for one-time events.

“There’s lots of places on campus for student groups to meet weekly,” Trail-Johnson said. “We don’t want these rooms tied up as much.”

This semester, Trail-Johnson said, on-campus groups like the MAX Center, Multicultural Life, SAAC and different advisory boards have used conference rooms for a number of one-time meetings.

Study Abroad Director Paul Nelson said while there is not a heavy flow of students in and out of the building, the “casual traffic” is far more than the International Center saw before it was relocated to Markim Hall.

“Over at the other building it was an event if a student just wandered in,” Nelson said. “Now it’s every day.”

Trail-Johnson emphasized that Markim Hall has seen an enormous amount of use since its groundbreaking in May. Markim Hall houses the International Center, the Civic Engagement Center, the Internship Porgram, the Lilly Program and the Institute for Global Citizenship. It is directly connected to Kagin Commons, which Trail-Johnson said links student resources for a “one-stop shop of connection and support.”

Trail-Johnson also pointed out that Markim Hall is not only a campus resource, it is also a community one. In addition to being available for events like retreats and conferences, the building is intended to be a source of public education about sustainable design.

The building certified platinum by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, meaning it meets the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest standards for environmental sustainability. The publicity from this designation has encouraged a steady stream of interest from colleges, community partners, architects and other groups interested in sustainable design. As such, Millhouse said a large number of the people who enter Markim Hall each day are “outside visitors.”

“Students should really come see the building,” Trail-Johnson said. “[They] should be proud. It’s very hard to get platinum level certification . and it’s a building you can walk into and think is really beautiful.