Dominican University Opens $8M Student Services Building

An $8 million renovation that replaces a 1960s-era library space with a centralized student services center has opened on the campus of Dominican University of California in San Rafael.

The Center for the Dominican Experience is the first significant new space developed on campus since the renovation of Meadowlands Hall in 2015. The project was funded by private donations.

“The Center for the Dominican Experience represents more than a decade of focused planning and innovation around a clear purpose: delivering Dominican students the very best, most accessible, most inclusive, most integrated, most holistic college experience,” said Nicola Pitchford, the college president.

The center unites under one roof offices that were dispersed throughout campus. The unity of the offices will better support undergraduate and graduate students and enhance work with community groups, Pitchford said.

The two-story building is located within what was one half of the university’s Alemany Library, designed by architects Howard Friedman and Henry Schubart in 1962. The interior of the partial library space was gutted and replaced with new construction.

On the first floor, the building encompasses three community engagement programs: the Susan and Dennis Gilardi Center for Community Engagement and Partnerships; the Francoise O. Lepage Center for Global Innovation; and the Barbara D. Goodman Art Gallery.

All three programs promote student engagement with the community. In the last 20 years, more than 7,000 students have engaged with the community through one or more service-learning courses, contributing 185,400 hours to on-site learning with community organizations, according to the university.

The Lepage Center extends those connections to organizations worldwide.

“The Lepage Center brings Dominican to the world and the world to Dominican by opening a network of roughly 80 organizations in 70 countries to students, faculty and staff,” said center director Wayne de Fremery, a professor of information science and entrepreneurship.

The center serves as a partner, collaborator and resource between Dominican’s business school and businesses, government and nonprofit organizations, he said.

The Barbara D. Goodman Art Gallery will display works by students and invited artists. Currently on display is the “Senior Thesis Exhibition,” featuring work by graduating students in the department of art, design and visual studies.

Student services are located on the second floor of the new building.

“This will enable students to deepen their experience with higher education, the campus community and community engagement,” said Lindsey Dean, assistant dean for academic affairs. “The university seeks to increase the student’s sense of belonging, in part by creating a welcoming space with the center.”

Some of the services are grouped together in the Mary B. Marcy Student Success Center, named after the former Dominican president. Services include integrative coaching, the peer mentor program, study strategies, career development, tutoring, digital portfolio development and accessibility and disability services.

“This is a centralized and welcoming space where all students will quickly realize they belong,” said Naomi Elvove, executive director of the center. “Proximity to library services increases opportunities for academic, scholarly support and engagement with students in a space where the students regularly gather.”

One feature of the center is the Fletcher Jones Digital Portfolio Lab, where students will be able to get help and access equipment to create professional-quality portfolios.

“Students have complex histories and nuanced life experiences,” said Christina Mayes, digital portfolio specialist. “The digital portfolio is a place to retell their story from a place of empowerment, where a previous setback or challenge can lead to clarity and spark a habit of lifelong learning.”