At the March 9 faculty meeting, President Falk noted that while the faculty emeriti whose offices had been housed in Mears West have agreed to move out in order to facilitate the planned integration of the Office of Career Counseling (OCC) and Alumni Relations, Mears House and Mears West are both still in need of renovations. “We are looking at first floor renovations at Mears to make the lobby more accessible. We are also looking at systems upgrades to Mears West, including heating and cooling,” said Diana Prideaux-Brune, associate vice president for Facilities. She estimated that renovations could take three to six months.
The two buildings were originally scheduled to be ready for the OCC’s relocation by July 1. Following the announcement of the need for renovations, it is estimated that the buildings may not be ready until this coming winter.
Despite these needs, John Noble, director of the OCC, explained that a July 1 move-in date is still possible. “There are two possibilities,” he said. “One is that they hold off on doing major renovations of Mears West and we move by end of summer so we’re in place by the beginning of the fall.”
If the College decides that the renovations of Mears West need to take place immediately, however, the OCC’s move into Mears House will be delayed until “probably Dead Week next year,” according to Noble.
As the plan is currently envisioned, the OCC’s staff will move into Mears House and be intermixed with the Alumni Relations staff, which is already located in Mears. Mears West will be used primarily as interview rooms, according to Noble.
“The Mears West piece is so that we can move folks from offices in Mears into there, so OCC can move primarily into this [Mears House] space,” Director of Alumni Relations Brooks Foehl said.
The move of the OCC, currently housed in Weston, to Mears House was planned to increase communication and collaboration between the OCC and Alumni Relations in order to better take advantage of the College’s extensive alumni network.
Noble, however, made it clear that while the future physical proximity of the two offices may not occur as soon as hoped, the two offices still plan on working closely together starting as early as this spring.
“The original idea [to collaborate with Alumni Relations] three years ago when it was first suggested was just that we switch the reporting relationship and start working more closely with Alumni Relations,” Noble said. “That’s already happening and we’ve already put plans in place for programming this spring and summer and going into next year.”
The benefit of both offices being housed in Mears, according to Noble, would be “more collaborative meetings, just bumping into each other in the hallways dreaming up things we could do with students and alums.” The two offices have already begun to work together to plan get-togethers between students and any alumni groups coming to campus this spring, and have also begun planning for student-alumni networking events in major U.S. cities this summer.
Foehl emphasized, however, that the true benefits of the two offices’ closer relationship will be best realized once they are both located in Mears House. “I think we’ll have to work a little harder if they’re not physically here with us,” he said. “We’re really excited for this to be an opportunity – for students to be coming in the door. If that’s not going to happen until late January, then we’ll see what we can do about how we’re going to engage with students, but until we get ourselves together, we’re not even going to know what all the benefits are going to be.”
Noble stated that the remaining questions surrounding Mears House mostly center around funding for renovations. “That’s the big question now in terms of all the various moves that are happening on campus, sort of figuring out where the resources are coming from to make the renovations and whether it’s best to do that whole hog right now and delay our move or get us over there and then kind of think about doing the big renovation later,” he said.
The senior administration will be the deciding body as to when renovations will actually take place, according to Noble and Foehl. While no exact time estimates were available, Noble and Foehl both estimated that the decision would be made within the next month.
Foehl emphasized the relationship between Alumni Relations and the OCC to students as the most important challenge facing the two offices if they are not combined by the fall semester. “The students [will] eventually see the integration, and they will hopefully have a better understanding of the Alumni Relations operation and how Alumni Relations can help their career searches and their opportunities,” he said.
Foehl continued on to say that until OCC counselors are able to more easily connect students physically to resources in the Alumni Relations office thanks to their proximity, however, the full scope of opportunities now available to students may go unrealized.
“If it’s going to be January … we’re just going to have to think harder about how we make sure students understand that the relationship – the formal relationship – has begun even though we’re not physically together,” he said. “The closer we get to this happening, the more the whole staff – everyone in Alumni Relations and everyone in the OCC – is excited about coming together.”