Over the summer of 2019, the Center of Leadership and Community Engagement (LACE) at Fontbonne University underwent both physical renovations and organizational changes. The purpose of these changes is to reach out to the Fontbonne community for co-curricular activities.
The LACE Center has been a space and resource for students and has housed offices for student organizations. It is located on the fourth floor of Medaille.
The LACE Center now includes two new offices, a lounge space that is called the Griffin’s Nest, and a conference room.
Joel Hermann, the Director of Orientation and Student Engagement at Fontbonne University, said that there has been a push to have LACE be “an overarching collection of campus engagement.”
Hermann’s job title, which previously was Associate Director of Leadership and Community Engagement, is now focused more on student engagement, whereas his previous title had the term “LACE” in it.
Janelle Julian, who previously had an office in LACE, also had a title change to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. Her office is now in the Student Affairs center, which is located on the first floor of Medaille.
LACE will now house Multicultural Affairs, Campus Ministry, and orientation and student engagement. In the past, Multicultural Affairs and Campus Ministry were separate, both physically and organizationally. (The main campus ministry office is still located on the first floor of Medaille; however, Campus Ministry graduate assistants and interns use the intern office space in the LACE Center.)
The revamped LACE space now includes the office for the new Multicultural Affairs Director James Williams, a new office location for Hermann, a new lounge area which used to be a student resource room, and a conference room that can seat up to 30 people.
The Griffin’s Nest is “more comfortable and relaxed,” whereas the conference room is a more “private space that feels business oriented” Hermann says.
Many of the changes have been implemented for LACE to be a place for students to expand their co-curricular involvement beyond the classroom.
Director of Multicultural Affairs James Williams feels that as a new addition to LACE, Multicultural Affairs will be important to student outreach and engagement.
“Having Multicultural Affairs in the LACE has allowed for a more diverse group of students to utilize the space. My dream is to have these student groups begin to collaborate on events since they are sharing a common space,” Williams said.
Elizabeth Rechtien, a senior and undergraduate intern for LACE, said that she hopes “the new changes in LACE will make it a more welcoming space where resident and commuter students can come to hang out, study, utilize the resources, and connect with the faculty members and graduate assistants.”
Sarah Vreibel, a graduate assistant in LACE this year, expanded on how she is already seeing positive effects of the changes.
“I think the new changes will affect student engagement in a positive manner. My hope is that all students feel supported and have the opportunities to achieve what they would like to, but also be pushed out of their comfort zone a little bit and try new things. I’m already seeing incoming freshman getting involved and the upperclassmen continuing to grow, be engaged, and help those younger students out,” Vreibel said.
Even though the semester has just started, Hermann has already “seen more groups using the space for meetings, more groups utilizing the space for their general boards, late night stuff.”
As the year continues, there is a heavy emphasis on inclusion and community among the LACE staff.
“I want the students to have a true sense of belonging here. I want them to feel like they can be their authentic selves and not feel like they are just being tolerated. Diversity and inclusion is great, but we sometimes forget about the belonging piece of it all,” Williams said.
Even though the LACE Center has been a resource for students on campus for years, there is hope that the new changes will reach a larger group of the Fontbonne community.
“Over the past three years, I have grown so much as a student leader through my connection to organizations on campus and the LACE Center. I hope that the LACE Center can continue to be a resource for all students to grow beyond the classroom and really find their place on campus in leadership roles. The [staff] members in LACE – and all of Student Affairs – are truly invested in the success of their students, so my hope is that more and more students can be impacted by opportunities from the LACE Center just like I have been.” Rechtien stated.