A Plan to Match the Vision
To stand on the fringes of a bison wallow and plan for construction of a university campus at that spot required faith, vision and determination. The daunting task took several years to complete, but it resulted in OBU’s first building and generated momentum which led to the 200-acre campus the University enjoys today.
Now, entering its second century, OBU stands at the fringes of a master plan which would reshape and, in several respects, redefine campus landmarks. This, also, is a daunting task and will require several years to complete. University officials see it as a vital element in fulfilling the institution’s mission and completing the OBU 2020 strategic vision which OBU trustees approved in the fall of 2009.
“We have worked with groups within the campus community to refine a master plan that can help us achieve the initiatives identified in OBU 2020,” said OBU President David Whitlock. “This plan addresses academic, residential life, administrative and athletic needs for our foreseeable future, and we are already on the path to implementing priority projects.”
The plan will require significant financial support, and the University is preparing to launch a capital campaign which will address priority projects. The “OBU 2020: Vision for a New Century” campaign will have a $67 million goal as it addresses several of the construction projects listed in the master plan.
Initial elements of the plan have been listed in alpha order on the working document prepared by OBU and CJC Architects Inc., a Tulsa firm which has worked with the University on several major projects, including the Recreation and Wellness Center and Bailey Business Center.
Larry Johnston, a partner in CJC Architects who has worked closely with OBU for many years, serves as the lead architect for creation of the master plan.
“Through our ongoing work with OBU, we have gained a good sense of the University’s commitment to embrace a consistent look and feel for campus structures,” Johnston said. “The campus currently lends itself to personal interaction and is open and friendly. We are committed to helping craft plans to carry forward that tradition.”
Chief priorities include construction of a new building to house OBU’s College of Nursing. With a steadily growing enrollment, the nursing school has maximized resources in the Williamson Nursing Center on the lower level of Thurmond Hall.
“There is a continuing need for more nurses in our nation, and our program has grown as students choose careers in nursing,” said Dr. Lana Bolhouse, dean of the College of Nursing. “Our laboratory, office and classroom space is steadily utilized, and having our own facility will allow us to build on our strengths and continue a reputation for producing outstanding nurses.”
The new building is slated for construction at the corner of MacArthur and Kickapoo, replacing the current Shawnee Hall parking lot.
“It will be a new face for the University,” Dr. Whitlock said. “When people approach what has long been perceived as the ‘front’ of OBU, they will be greeted by a facility which will be similar in appearance to the Bailey Business Center, instead of seeing the back side of our oldest building.”
Residential facilities also are a pressing priority in the master plan. Construction of new apartment-style housing directly north of Agee Residence Center will provide contemporary options for male students. The housing community will incorporate several two-story and three-story buildings. To be constructed in phases, the overall complex is designed to accommodate 608 students.
The plan for new housing means the eventual discontinuation of housing in Agee Residence Center. The building opened in 1949, with Baxter and Storer wings added a decade later. OBU officials said it is a stately and well-constructed facility, but retrofitting it to address current housing expectations would be a costly undertaking. Current plans were developed after a series of meetings over the summer and early fall months with OBU faculty and staff.
“Our desire is to work with a master plan which has benefitted from the input of the campus community,” Whitlock said. “After our trustees approved the basic structure of the plan at their May meeting, we started conducting forums and meeting with individual academic areas. That yielded great input and creative ideas which we have incorporated into our current plan.”
A recurring idea in the internal discussions was the possibility of abandoning housing in Agee and, instead, converting the facility to office and classroom space. Plans are under way to utilize portions of the east side of the building for administrative offices, the center section for student development offices, and the west side for athletic offices and meeting space.
Moving administrative offices to Agee’s east side would compliment offices other administrative offices which will be housed in a new University Welcome Center. The building is set to be constructed north of Raley Chapel, where Jent Alumni Center currently stands.
“Our desire is to create a one-stop building to address issues for current and prospective students,” Whitlock said. “Having a building where we can welcome visitors, as well as meet students’ needs with our academic center, student financial services, and business offices, will be beneficial for students and their families.
Along with providing more user-friendly administrative offices, the Welcome Center is designed to offer a new “grand entrance” to the campus. The master plan is built around the addition of a new OBU entrance from Kickapoo Street at the northeast edge of the campus. That roadway would curve to align with the Welcome Center at MacArthur Street, leading to a new oval drive which would eventually encompass the Welcome Center, Raley Chapel, and a new Performing Art Center south of University Street.
“The master plan is a guide for our efforts going forward,” Whitlock said. “We anticipate changes in priorities, and we anticipate that this will take decades to fully implement. While the footprint of this plan will probably not be exactly what OBU looks like in 20 or 30 years, it represents a concerted effort to forecast future needs and develop a shared vision for what OBU will look like as we address those needs.”