One of the challenges of providing academic and nonacademic supports for college students is making them visible on campus. The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa is investing $53 million to convert a library on campus into a Student Success Center, highlighting the services offered and creating space for peer engagement.
Renovations to the library started in June, and university leaders expect it to be complete before the start of the 2025–26 academic year.
What’s the need: The university initially announced plans to renovate Sinclair Library in October 2018. The goal was to unify student support services in a central location as well as make better use of the library space available on campus, explains Provost Michael Bruno.
“It quickly became apparent that we needed to connect those elements of the organization connected to student academic success with those elements that are connected to student growth and development,” Bruno says.
A secondary level was creating physical spaces for students to learn and engage on campus. The majority of UH Mānoa’s undergraduate population (totaling more than 14,500 as of October) live off campus or commute, with 57 percent of first-year students and 80 percent of all undergraduates residing off campus.
Bruno and other administrators come to campus to find students are already in the libraries studying or working. They tell Bruno they have to get to campus early to find parking before their classes, and the options for campus spaces where they can spend time are limited.
The facility is located near the Campus Center and Hemenway Hall, home to various student organizations and student employment opportunities, as well as the Warrior Recreation Center. The center will live directly across the street from a new student housing building.
What’s new: One of the primary features of the center will be space for students to study and hang out in between classes. Three of the four floors will have open spaces for gatherings with comfortable seating, tables and electrical outlets.
The center will also be home to UH Mānoa’s learning assistants (who function similar to supplemental instructors), tutoring facilities and other spaces for peer learning. Students who are engaged and feel connected to the institution are more likely to persist, but the opposite is also true, Bruno says: students who perform better academically are more likely to spend time connecting with their peers.
The facility will have over 30 conference rooms of various sizes for study groups and advising departments, a computer lab, and a small dining facility.
The books from Sinclair have been consolidated into collections at Hamilton Library across campus.
What’s next: In addition to the student success center, UH Mānoa is building a new residence hall to house upper-level undergraduate and graduate students and potentially junior faculty members.
The vision is to provide affordable housing options for community members, specifically young families, as the new facility will have an expanded childcare facility to double the institution’s overall capacity.
Construction has been challenged by supply chain constraints, which are not uncommon to Hawai‘i given its remote location and some recent natural disasters, but the university’s project team has remained flexible and creative despite stress points.
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This article has been updated to correct Bruno's title at UH Mānoa.