After 10 months of construction, McDaniel College’s newly renovated Gill Center allows for a centralized and flexible location for one of the school’s fastest-growing fields.
In the last decade, Jenny McKenzie, an associate professor of kinesiology, said McDaniel’s kinesiology major, formerly exercise science and physical education, has continued to expand. McDaniel is the only independent college or university in the state that offers kinesiology as a major, according to a news release from the college.
What was next, was the ability to physically expand.
“We had outgrown our spaces,” McKenzie said.
Prior to the renovations, she said, the program was sharing spaces and spread throughout campus. You’d have to bounce around to find people and classroom equipment, she said.
Now, the program can run more classes in the same time code, and all of the labs are under one roof, “versus carrying equipment literally across campus when we needed to use some of the spaces in biology.”
The total project cost $6.6 million, and has been supported by a $3 million grant from the State of Maryland in addition to private donations, according to the release. The renovation’s focus was to expand and modernize classrooms and research spaces, as well as maximize underutilized space, according to the release.
The project added more than 12,000 square feet to the existing Gill Center, according to the release. The project created three multipurpose classrooms above the Gill Gymnasium bleachers within the mezzanine level.
Previously, Jim Coons, the college’s facilities director, said, there used to be upper level bleachers and a railing.
“We utilized that space by taking the bleachers out and creating three new classrooms up to date with technology,” he added.
On the lower level under Old Gill, the project added a kinesiology seminar room, nine faculty offices and three updated laboratories, according to the release.
"This used to be a storage space with a very small classroom in it,” Coons said.
They excavated the existing floor and dug gown to get the ceiling heights right. Then, they underpinned the foundation, poured a new floor, waterproofed the building and added windows.
For students, the renovated facilities are a great improvement.
“The new lab itself is just completely different,” Andrea Magallanes, said. Magallanes, a senior majoring in kineseology, plans to go to graduate school for occupational therapy once she graduates.
The old lab was a tight space, she said, adding that students couldn’t do much there.
“It gives us a lot more opportunity to be able to run bigger studies,” Matt Cramer, a senior majoring in kineseology, agreed.
This year, both students are involved in a research study that looks at the effects of resistance training programs on the psychological health of college women, he said. The study has about 35 participants, and sometimes 10 at a time will come in for the study, something that would have been impossible in the former facilities.
“It's so much better than the old [lab],” Cramer, who hopes to become a physician's assistant, said.
Rich Laird, an assistant professor of kinesiology, said the program has had “explosive growth,” because it’s a good way for students like Magallanes and Cramer, and those interested in allied health, to get there. It’s not the only track for professions in the medical field like physical therapy or occupational therapy, but it’s one that allows students to focus on the human.
And the renovated space, with the entire department in one area, is helping students, and the program, find success.
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"It gives us a space and provides us with flexibility to kind of grow and meet the demand,” he said.