Exciting Growth of MMC Campus Continues

With its debut in August, the 12,000-square-foot Judith Mara Carson Center for Visual Arts—known affectionately as The Judy—became the largest capital construction initiative the College has completed in nearly 15 years. But it’s not the only exciting change you’ll see on campus this semester.

MMC plans to unveil three new state-of-the-art production, dance, and rehearsal spaces in Nugent and Carson Halls this fall. The construction management firm NYCAN Builders, award-winning architects DSK | Dewing Schmid Kearns, and engineering firm Lizardos Engineers worked on the projects; DSK, which also designed The Judy, collaborated with the College on their design.

In addition, MMC just recently cut the ribbon on a fully renovated space housing the Student Organization Suite (SOS), the Office of Student Development and Activities (SDA), and Griffy’s Grocery.

Each of these projects is unique and meets a critical need at the College, said MMC’s Capital Projects Manager Christian Jesselli. What’s more, he added, it’s just a taste of what’s to come as the College makes steady progress on its strategic facilities plan, “which means that, whether big or small, we’ll continually be making improvements to enhance student learning and life at the College.” Here’s what you can expect.


Project: New Dance Studio
Location: Carson Hall, Room 302

MMC dance students will soon be gliding across the floor of a brand-new studio in Carson. This year’s freshman class includes 87 dance majors, a 23 percent increase from last year, according to Nancy Lushington, associate professor and chair of the Dance Department. With that jump in admissions, additional course sections needed to be added, making extra dance space a high priority. “The department’s goal of creating diverse dancers requires space to explore all of the different forms of dance that we are now able to offer,” Lushington said.

Located next to the Commons, the 800-square-foot space will have all the amenities of a professional studio. That includes Marley floors—a slip-resistant vinyl surface that’s a must-have for dancers—and a full dehumidification system to prevent shifts in humidity and temperature that can leave floors feeling slick. The studio will also be equipped with its own mechanical room and electrical room. “The dedicated state-of-the-art infrastructure on the back end isn’t standard for a dance studio, but we went the extra mile,” Jesselli said. The space will also be visually appealing, with an industrial aesthetic that uses the same open-floor, exposed-ceiling concept seen in The Judy.


Project: New Theatre Rehearsal Studio
Nugent 462

An added benefit of the sun-lit classrooms in The Judy? Thanks to those new instructional spaces, Jesselli and the Enabling Moves Team—the group at MMC charged with moving capital projects forward—were able to repurpose classroom space on Nugent’s fourth floor. As a result, the fourth floor has been transformed into a full dance-and-theatre suite with a theatre rehearsal space that students can reserve. No classes will be held there; that’s important because most students are confined to holding rehearsals in campus settings that can only be used when classes aren’t meeting. “But soon, if a student production needs to rehearse, they can use this space,” Jesselli said. He’s reviewing additional options to create similar spaces elsewhere on campus.

The tables in the Design and Production Lab are made out of a bowling alley floor and were designed and built by Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Robert Dutiel.

Project: Design and Production Lab and Classroom
Location: Nugent Hall, Rooms 353 A and 353 B

One floor down from the dance-and-theatre suite, you’ll find another MMC first: the College’s new Design and Production Lab and classroom. “We’ve never had a dedicated design and production lab on campus before,” Jesselli said. Like the other capital projects making their debut this semester, it was need driven. “If you wanted to show students how to run and hook up theatre lighting, they’d need to work on that in the theatre, and that becomes problematic because you’re always setting up for shows,” he said. So, in collaboration with the theatre faculty and Executive Director for Business Operations and Real Estate Diana Zambrotta Sheetz, Jesselli designed this space, which includes a production lab where stage lighting is taught and an adjacent classroom space, inviting an interactive learning experience. The rooms are separated by a divider that professors can slide aside for a seamless transition from classroom lessons to hands-on learning.

The production lab, which is all black down to the dry-erase boards, will include an extra special component: A company switch, or the electrical switch design used in theatres and arenas. That way, classes will be able to simulate what it’s like in the theatre, Jesselli said.

Jesselli had initially sought to procure bifold doors to divide the lab and classroom, but when holdups in the supply chain made it impossible to get them in time, he had to shift gears. He located a collector in Pennsylvania who sold the College the wood barn-style doors that had been used in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Mill and the U. S. Steel Mill in Lorain, Ohio, in the early 1900s. Besides offering an extra bit of history, salvaging and recycling construction materials reduces waste and the impact on the environment, which aligns with the College’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Another can’t-miss design feature: As a more cost-effective alternative to butcher-block tables, the tables in the Design and Production Lab are made out of a bowling alley floor and were designed and built by Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Robert Dutiel. “Because of the construction work on The Judy, we knew how much butcher-block tables were running at the time,” Jesselli said. But bowling alley floors are made of three-inch-thick yellow pine, making the material a sturdy option.

Project: Renovated SOS Suite, SDA Office, and Griffy’s Grocery
Location: Nugent Hall 053

Over the summer, Jesselli and the Enabling Moves Team were able to move the SOS Suite, SDA Office, and Griffy’s Grocery to Nugent Hall’s lower level, creating a one-stop shop for student resources. The change effectively doubled their footprint while a full renovation upgraded the space. Now, students walking in will find a student lounge with new couches and video games, storage space, workstations, and a reception desk. Moreover, Griffy’s Grocery received a freezer for perishables, which will soon allow it to expand its offerings.

According to Dean of Students Dayne Hutchinson, Ph.D., the changes have helped energize the community.

“Having the SOS and SDA together in the same suite allows our students to create a bond with our staff members and be supported in a space where they come to learn and work,” he said. “Beyond that, the renovations look great. Students have a lot more space, and it creates a centeredness in the SOS suite that I think has been missing for many years. It gives students the resources that allow them to be even more successful in how they engage not only with the campus community but also with their peers.”

Published: October 20, 2022