Indiana State has experienced many periods of growth over its 152-year history, but the past nine years of growth and investment in the campus is unprecedented.
Katie Nuthak has witnessed first-hand the deep friendships being formed between members of her Zeta Tau Alpha sorority as they live together in Reeve Hall.
The women in her sorority spend time together doing homework, holding chapter meetings and planning for events, all of which have helped to deepen the bonds between sisters.
“By living here collectively, we have grown stronger,” said Nuthak, a sophomore from Shelbyville, Ind., who serves as the community assistant for Zeta Tau Alpha in Reeve Hall. “We all spend a lot more time together since we’re all in the same house and it gets you involved. It gets you involved in not only intramurals but in running for a position to hold in the chapter.”
Newly built Reeve Hall, the first new campus housing facility in more than 40 years, is just one of the more than 25 major construction and renovation projects completed since 2008, when President Dan Bradley arrived in Terre Haute.
Although Bradley will retire in January after nine years at the helm of Indiana State, his tireless commitment to improving the university will live on through the many campus facilities upgrades he helped shepherd to completion.
With Bradley leading the charge, the campus, state Legislature and many gracious donors have infused more than $300 million into Indiana State’s living spaces, recreation and athletics facilities, academic buildings and campus grounds. The campus has been abuzz with construction workers and equipment over the last nine years; at times, multiple projects have been underway at once.
“It’s something that needed to be done and I’m very happy that we were able to do it,” Bradley said of these capital accomplishments. “I don’t think it would’ve been possible to get any more done really, given the level of effort and intensity that we’ve had for the last nine years.”
The university has experienced many periods of growth over its 152-year history, but none as substantial as the last nine years, said Kevin Runion, associate vice president for facilities management, who described the number and scope of the capital improvements made during Bradley’s tenure as “unprecedented.”
But the impact of these projects runs deeper than the obvious, brick-and-mortar improvements — they also help give students the best college experience possible and make success their top priority.
“It’s hard to quantify, but I’m convinced — as are others — that if students don’t feel comfortable in their environment, they’re probably not going to do well,” said Bradley. “If they’re fighting with their environment or their environment doesn’t encourage them to do things like interact with one another or faculty, they aren’t going to be as successful.
Student housing in focus
The campus may now be unrecognizable to students who attended Indiana State 20 or 30 years ago, but the transformation didn’t occur over night.
The 2009 master plan, which complements State’s broader strategic plan, identified Indiana State’s aging housing stock as a top priority, which led to the construction of Reeve Hall and the renovation of Pickerl Hall, Sandison Hall, Mills Hall, Erickson Hall, 500 Wabash and Cromwell Hall.
“We knew that much of our student housing was antiquated,” said Diann McKee, university treasurer and senior vice president of finance and administration. “It was built in the 1950s and 1960s, and while the university had done a great job of maintaining the envelopes of the buildings, the housing itself really didn’t function in a way that met the needs of our students today.”
Though each housing project was unique, all of the renovations sought to create comfortable, modern living environments for current and future Sycamores.
Many of the renovations, which were funded with room and board dollars, featured natural lighting, new gathering spaces and lounges, air conditioning, pod-style communities, gender-inclusive restrooms, security upgrades and more.
Although State’s housing facilities needed updating anyway, the modern and refreshed dorms also served as an opportunity for Indiana State to recruit additional students to Terre Haute.
“In order to attract students to campus, we needed to make sure our facilities were in line with other facilities around the state,” said Amanda Knerr, executive director for Residential Life. “Students are looking for these amenities.”
With the continued support of the state Legislature, Indiana State has also renovated several academic facilities under Bradley’s leadership, including University Hall, Federal Hall and Normal Hall. Other projects are underway now, including a renovation of the College of Health and Human Services facility.
“Many of these projects ensure that we’re providing the best possible learning environment for our students, as well as making sure that faculty have the appropriate resources to deliver that instruction,” McKee said.
McKee said she was particularly proud of the Normal Hall renovation, which she described as the “crown jewel” of all the projects completed over the last nine years.
Normal Hall, originally built in 1910 as the Indiana Normal School’s library, had been somewhat neglected and used primarily for storage until 2015, when crews restored it to its original charm and beauty while at the same time making much-needed updates.
It’s only fitting that Normal Hall is now home to University College and the Center for Student Success, two campus offices committed to helping students succeed during their time at State.
“During the tenure of President Bradley, new life was breathed into this grand building with the addition of modern upgrades, while at the same time respectfully keeping the history of the building intact,” said Runion.
When he reflects back on the many projects the campus has competed or started work on over the last nine years, Bradley said his team has focused on creating more places for students to interact with each other and with faculty and staff.
Those spaces are intended to help Sycamores feel a sense of connection and belonging, which is an important factor in whether they persist in their studies and ultimately graduate.
“If students engage with one another and with our faculty and staff, they’re much more likely to be successful,” Bradley said.
That philosophy is reflected in the small study areas that have been added to the Science Building in recent years. That building has also benefited from much-needed renovation work to its laboratories and classrooms.
“The Science Building, until a few years ago seemed to have kind of an industrial feel to it — it was not necessarily the most inviting space,” said Eric Glendening, chair of the department of chemistry and physics. “But now when you walk into the building, particularly on the first and second floors, there are these areas that have been integrated into those floors where students can hang out, they can study, they can meet with their peers to work on problem solving together and that’s very helpful.”
Beyond the construction and renovation projects completed during the last nine years, the campus has made other changes to improve the overall look and feel of Indiana State.
The campus has added more parking west of Third Street, improved signage and wayfinding measures, planted hundreds of trees, expanded the bike and walking trail that winds through campus and added several new public art displays. The university has also implemented traffic calming measures through campus, thus making it safer for students, faculty and staff.
Indiana State has also been named a Tree Campus USA every year since the program launched in 2008 to recognize colleges that promote healthy trees and student involvement with campus urban forests.
Off campus, the university has increased its presence in community projects, forming strategic partnerships to help improve downtown Terre Haute, the Ryves Neighborhood and other areas.
“All of these projects have so greatly improved not only the campus, but the community at large,” said McKee, noting that campus construction projects have created hundreds of jobs for the region.
Indiana State entered into a public-private partnership with Thompson Thrift Development and TIAA-CREF, for example, to build the 75-unit apartment complex for upperclassmen and graduate students.
The partnership means that the developer owns the building while Indiana State manages the student-housing portion of the complex, which also features retail and office space.
“We’re using student housing to help invigorate the central downtown area,” said McKee. “What better way is there to do that than to have 260 students who are actually living in the downtown area?”
Moving forward, the next Indiana State president will likely use the 2016 master plan as a road map for completing capital projects in the future.
Proposed renovation projects include the Fine Arts and Commerce Building, Holmstedt Hall, Root Hall, Dreiser Hall and Fairbanks Hall. Beyond that, the master plan suggests improvements for the College of Technology, Gillum Hall, Tirey Hall/Tilson Music Hall and Cunningham Memorial Library, among others.
This fall, the campus saw its ninth straight year of enrollment growth with a record-setting 13,771 Sycamores attending classes. That growth doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, and Indiana State’s physical infrastructure will need to keep up.
“Capital improvement projects are the physical manifestation of a university that is healthy and growing,” Runion said.