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The design for a facility that will serve as a hub for University of Wisconsin Oshkosh students to receive advising and support while also featuring state-of-the-art “green” technology was approved May 8 by the UW System Board of Regents.

The project is a $8.821 million retrofit of UW Oshkosh’s Elmwood Commons to create a Student Academic Support, Development and Referral Center. It will be Northeastern Wisconsin’s largest building to feature a ground source geothermal system, which takes advantage of moderate temperatures in the earth to provide heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. It is expected to reduce annual energy costs by 38 percent in comparison to the Wisconsin Building Code.

“This project demonstrates how a building can not only be retrofitted to meet modern needs, but it can also be designed to be significantly more efficient than existing structures,” said Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Tom Sonnleitner. “This project is another key step in our physical campus development and demonstrates our commitment to green construction.”

The new facility, designed by KEE Architects of Madison, will provide the University’s nearly 12,700 students with a single destination to address student advising, career services, counseling services and academic resources. The Undergraduate Advising Resource Center, the Counseling Center, Career Services and the Center of Academic Resources will be brought together and will be housed in the facility.

“The project evolved out of the campus’s strategic planning process and addresses the University’s goals of improving student retention, time to degree and graduation rates,” said Chancellor Richard H. Wells. “This initiative recognizes the University’s systematic integration of academic support resources.”

The project was a joint collaboration among UW Oshkosh students, who requested a one-stop facility; the state, which funded the retrofit; and Student Affairs, which donated the building.

“Our students saw the need to invest in and enhance academic support programs such as advising, tutoring, career development and counseling and voted in 2003 to fund these initiatives through differential tuition,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Petra Roter. “Differential tuition provides an infusion of approximately $1 million into those programs. This investment by our students and the University has resulted in significant expansion and use of these programs and services by our students and these programs have outgrown their spaces.  This new facility accommodates for this dramatic growth with state of the art space which will be able to better serve our students.”

The design of the project will go before the state Building Commission May 20. If approved, construction could begin as soon as late summer.