CLEMSON — Though facing off against each other on the football field on Saturday, Clemson and South Carolina State University students have teamed up off the field to help make the Orangeburg campus more enjoyable for its students.

Clemson students presented their ideas for a design for a new student center at S.C. State University.

Clemson students presented their ideas for a design for a new student life center at S.C. State University.
Image Credit: Bryce Donovan / Clemson University

The idea began last year when two Clemson University students and landscape architecture professor Paul Russell worked with S.C. State students and faculty to develop a long-range master plan development strategy for S.C. State. A major suggestion coming from the study was a new student life center to be located in the heart of the campus.

So earlier this year, 31 Clemson students developed architectural designs that could help make the new center a reality, or at least provide ideas for S.C. State administrators and trustees to explore further. The project, through the Clemson College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities Community Research and Design Center, was part of a comprehensive studio course for graduate students in their final semester, co-taught by architecture faculty Dustin Albright, Ufuk Ersoy and Ulrike Heine.

Working in small teams, the students prepared 15 designs based on the master plan developed by Russell’s team in 2015 and their own first-person research on S.C. State’s campus.

Clemson and S.C. State have many things in common. Founded about seven years apart, both are land-grant institutions established to teach agricultural and mechanical arts to young people and provide information and help to families and communities through Extension networks — although the populations they originally served reflected South Carolina’s segregated society. Both schools desegregated in the 1960s, and S.C. State remains South Carolina’s only public historically black college or university.

Both schools also have a strong military heritage (S.C. State continues to be one of the nation’s leading producers of minority Army officers) and highly competitive athletics programs.

“Usually the projects students work on in the studio are hypothetical,” Russell said. “In this case, however, they have actually met the clients and learned about the culture and what’s important to the students and alumni, which makes the students more thoughtful and serious about the work. They want to come up with concepts that the university can use. Most of our students said it was the best site visit they’d ever had because the S.C. State students were so engaged and enthusiastic.”

After input from the S.C. State students, Clemson students quickly realized what mattered most to them was getting a new student center.

“The current facility is 40-plus years old and lacks many amenities that the 21st century student — the millennial — would appreciate,” said Tamara Jeffries-Jackson, S.C. State’s vice president for student affairs. “A new center would also create a stronger sense of community and create additional places for students to gather and build lasting relationships beyond the library and residence halls. It is my hope that the projects presented provide a variety of options for consideration of a new student center at S.C. State and that the collaboration and partnership between the two schools continues beyond the conclusion of the presentations.”