Frequently Asked Questions
PW698 Multicultural Center

Project Development, Scope and Student Leadership

Project Budget, Design and Sustainability

Construction Timeline and Impacts

Project Updates and Additional Information

Project Development, Scope and Student Leadership

Why was PW698 Multicultural Center initiated?Return to Top

  • To increase visibility and accessibility for underrepresented students
  • To make a physical statement of value and philosophy for diversity and inclusivity
  • To increase connectivity and activated space on street level and above
  • To increase multicultural education resource space for campus

A key element of such a visible, accessible space is to offer programs and services that encourage the broader university community to increase its knowledge of ethnic identity and increase its appreciation of multiple cultures.

What is the project scope?Return to Top

The project expands the Ethnic Student Center, provides new offices for three Associated Students (AS) Students Resource and Outreach Programs and a home for Multicultural Services. It will provide much needed space for student support and its location at the student union will not only provide easy accessibility, but will facilitate connections to a variety of resources and collaborative opportunities.

The project scope includes:

  • Demolition of the Bookstore roof and mezzanine, and extention of VU Level 7 from KUGS over the main VU entry below to create an additional full floor above the existing Bookstore.
  • New and expanded home for the Ethnic Student Center (approximately five times the existing size) and new Resource Library.
  • New offices for three AS Students Resource and Outreach Programs (ROP) that will be adjacent to the Resource Library shared with the ESC:
    • Womxn’s Identity Resource Center
    • Queer Resource Center
    • Disability Outreach Center
  • Home for Multicultural Services, university administrative support staff for students, faculty, and staff who will collaborate with and augment services provided by the ESC and ROP programs.
  • The addition of gender neutral restrooms on Level 7.
  • Expanded VU lobby with new main entry to the Bookstore and an expanded reception area for the VU Multipurpose Room (MPR). Work performed in the Bookstore will be limited to providing required structure for the Level 7 Addition and to converting operations from three levels to two.
  • Minor modifications to KUGS entry and work areas to accommodate the additional functions on Level 7. (KUGS is Western’s radio station staffed by volunteer students.)

In the architect’s draft planning images, the phrase “I wear my identity and culture with pride here” is shown to feature prominently on the wall of the new Center. How was this phrase chosen? How does it reflect the values and mission of WWU?Return to Top

The architects have had an interpretive consultant working directly with students in various groups and settings including the Building Unity weekend, and listening to what is most important to them with the creation of the new Multicultural Center. The phrase “I wear my identity and culture with pride here” is one message that resonated positively with students, but it is draft language at this stage and the students are still engaged in discussions regarding the various messaging and graphical opportunities within space.

What were some of the factors that led to the decision to construct a new multicultural center?Return to Top

An expansion of the Ethnic Student Center had been an identified need for a number of years as Western’s diverse student population increased and the ESC quickly outgrew its space within the Viking Union. As planning for the expansion began and comparisons were made to other institutions, a vision of a larger Multicultural Center emerged and momentum built for the project, culminating with a student referendum vote in Spring 2016. There’s also been a desire to create a resource for the campus that is open to all.

Will the new Multicultural Center draw more diverse and underrepresented students to WWU and how will it affect the University’s ability to support diversity and inclusion?Return to Top

It is hoped that by the services provided and the visibility and accessibility of the Center, diverse and underrepresented students will feel that this is a place they are truly welcomed and will be supported. The primary goal for the Multicultural Center is to support student needs, providing the types of spaces and resources – study, social, club workspaces, advising, etc. - that will support diverse student identities and their success. It will be a welcoming place to call home – a place of inclusion.

As Western seeks to ensure its student body represents the diversity within the State and reflects the diversity of the world in which we all live and work, this Center will be important to fully supporting every student we welcome to campus.

How are students involved?Return to Top

  • Student leadership and involvement has supported and directed the Ethnic Student Center (ESC) from its inception in 1991 through the present. Current efforts to create the Multicultural Center would not have been possible without those efforts. In addition, students collaborated and advocated with university colleagues in Enrollment and Student Services (ESS), the Dean of Students (DOS), the Viking Union (VU), and partnered with multiple faculty across campus (especially through the President’s Taskforce on Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity). 
  • Spring/Fall 2014 – Students (including AS leaders and students from the ESC) began working with VU and ESS colleagues to develop plans for enhancing the current ESC. AS provided monetary support for initial planning (Spring 2014). 
  • Spring/Fall 2015 – VU and ESS committed $1.5 million to relocate and renovate space in the VU to enhance the ESC. Students worked with architects and determined multiple options for relocating the ESC in the VU and enhancing the presence and space.
  • Fall 2015 – ESC students (through a letter to multiple staff and administration) requested an increased commitment, beyond relocation in the VU, to expand space and provide a new and more robust home for the ESC and the development of a more robust Multicultural Center.
  • Fall 2015/Winter 2016 – Students partnered with the President’s Taskforce for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity to develop a recommendation to support a more comprehensive Multicultural Center. 
  • Winter/Spring 2016 – AS student leadership developed a referendum for the Associated Students of WWU to assess a fee of up to $30 per student per quarter to fund a Multicultural Center that would:
    • “Create new space and renovate existing spaces that would not only increase the size of the Ethnic Student Center by over five times, but would create a highly visible and accessible presence from the main Viking Union Plaza level. Other funding sources would partner to create this space to support our growing diverse population and engage the campus to better understand other cultures.”
    • Fee passed in a student-wide vote with 63% of students voting YES.
  • Fall 2016 – Opsis Architecture hired to complete the Multicultural Center project. The ESC Executive Committee was formed to help direct its design. Decision made to locate the new Center over the AS Bookstore and link across to the current 7th floor of the VU over Vendors Row Plaza area.
  • Winter 2017 through Fall 2017 - Opsis Architecture works with the VU, ESC Steering Committee,  students from across the AS programs (including the Disability Outreach Center, Queer Resource Center, Womxn’s Identity Center), and ESS administration to design the new Multicultural Center space.
Pie chart summary of dedicated funtional spaces

What particular student groups and individuals have been involved in the planning process for the new Multicultural Center?Return to Top

The Associated Students Board of Directors, the Ethnic Student Center and an ESC Executive Committee with representation from the ESC, and representatives from the AS Resource and Outreach Programs. Going back several years, a number of Associated Students leaders have been key in moving this project forward, including the AS President and AS VP for Diversity student leaders in particular.

When did the planning for the new multicultural center first start and how did the project develop into what it is today?Return to Top

The Associated Students allocated $50,000 in Spring 2014 to begin initial design discussions. In the Spring of 2015, the VU and Enrollment & Student Services pledged additional funds, bringing the funding available for the project to $1.5 M. During 2015, students worked closely with architects to identify programmatic space needs and to develop options for ESC expansion within the Viking Union. By late Fall 2015, it became apparent that options were limited within the VU, and that increasing the budget to create additional space in a more visible location would be vital to supporting students into the future.

To secure additional funding AS leaders worked to bring a referendum to the student body in Spring 2016. Students passed the referendum with 63% voting “yes” to assess upon themselves a Multicultural Fee. This fee, along with some additional institution funds brought the total project budget to approximately $20 million and architects were re-engaged during Fall 2016 to develop the larger vision. They have been meeting with students since Winter 2017 to develop the current design.

Project Budget, Design and Sustainability

What is the project budget and how is it being funded?Return to Top

The total project budget is approximately $20 million. In the Spring of 2016, students voted in favor of a new fee to expand the Ethnic Student Center and Multicultural Services space at the Viking Union/Bookstore Complex. The fee is $30 per quarter (for students taking six or more credits) and will be pledged to bond debt, funding a portion of the construction, maintenance, and facility operations of the new space. The Associated Students contributed some reserve funds to the project as well.

The project’s total funding is a partnership, so in addition to the above student fee and reserves (69%), additional project funding sources include institutional funds (23%) and savings achieved by refunding some existing Viking Union bonds (7%).

Pie chart summary of funding sources

What firms are on the design/construction team?Return to Top

Design Team:

  • Opsis Architecture, Seattle, WA
  • RMC Architects, Bellingham, WA
  • Coughlin Porter Lundeen, Seattle, WA, Structural Engineers
  • WSP Group, Seattle, WA, Mechanical Engineers
  • K Engineers, Inc., Lynden, WA, Electrical Engineers
  • Murase Associates, Seattle, WA, Landscape Architects
  • Wilson Engineering, Bellingham, WA, Civil Engineers

GCCM (General Contractor Construction Manager):

  • Dawson Construction, Bellingham, WA

Is sustainability being considered and in what ways?Return to Top

Sustainability has been a driving principle for the Multicultural Services project from the beginning based on clear direction and emphasis from the students. The project is pursuing LEED v4 Silver certification, the first project on campus to pursue the new more robust v4 requirements. Areas of particular emphasis include an integration of social and environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, daylighting and improved indoor air quality.

  • For the social emphasis, an interpretive planner, working closely with the design team, has guided the listening and integration of diverse perspectives to create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all. This will include working with local Native American communities for recognition in the building. Graphics and the resource library will share these messages with building occupants and visitors. Featured local and salvaged materials will illustrate the direct connection to place. The construction team is pursuing diverse and emerging subcontractors for inclusion on the team.
  • Energy modeling has guided the design team and University to mechanical systems that provide superior performance. Metering will track and constantly monitor energy consumption.
  • Additionally, daylight modeling is informing the refinement of the exterior and how quality daylight can be provided in a large majority of all spaces. A large exterior sunscreen on the south façade will respond to site specific conditions for optimized interior daylight and minimized summer heat gain.
  • Indoor air quality is being elevated by means of manually operated windows throughout together with direct outside air systems and carefully selected low emitting materials.

Are there any special design features?Return to Top

The project will give prominent visibility to the ESC and improve the identity and connectively of the entire VU. Located on top of the existing campus bookstore, the building expansion bridges over to the existing Level 7 of the VU and creates a new lobby to unify the Union, MPR, and Bookstore. Vendor’s Row will be permanently located under the existing VU MPR canopy on High Street.

The sunscreen facing the Performing Arts Plaza will provide a clear identity for the building while also carefully modulating daylight.

Construction Timeline and Impacts

When does construction start? End?Return to Top

  • Schematic design is complete; Design development phase completed October 2017.
  • Construction drawings complete January 2018.
  • Construction began December 2017 to prepare the VU MPR for the Bookstore relocation.
  • Main project construction begins February 2018.
  • Scheduled completion June 2019.

What kind of construction impacts are expected? Are there any noise mitigation strategies that will be implemented?Return to Top

Construction will occur in two phases. In February 2018, construction site fencing will be installed around the Bookstore building and a mobile tower crane will be erected. Pedestrian access to the main VU entry will be maintained to the east (from High St) and south (from Virginia Wright/PAC plaza). Phase 2 will begin during spring break 2018 with the closure of the access from the east (High Street). This path will remain closed until construction completion. During the 2018-19 school year, access to the VU will be restricted to a narrow path from the PAC plaza.

The noisiest work will occur toward the beginning of each phase during the demolition periods.

  • Construction will typically occur between 7am and 4pm. Regular communication between Western, the contractor, and users of the Viking Union and surrounding facilities will focus on coordination of schedules and activities with the goal of mitigating impacts. The contractor will utilize the summer months for the most impactful work as possible. Noise mitigation strategies such as creation of separating/noise dampening walls will assist in reducing the impact.

Will current occupants in the VU (eateries, AS club offices, US Post Office, etc.) remain open during construction? Return to Top

All services in the VU will remain open during construction, except the VU Gallery. The VU Gallery will be closed during construction; gallery programming during construction is to be determined. Student Life and the LEADS program will be relocated within the VU during a portion of construction. The Suicide Prevention Coordinator and the Men’s Violence Prevention Specialist, and the Prevention and Wellness Resource Center will be relocated to the first floor of the Edens Hall Administrative Building during the entire length of construction.

What will happen to Vendor’s Row? Will it be closed during construction?Return to Top

Vendors’ Row will move to its new location under the MPR canopy, in front of the temporary Bookstore, by February 2018 and will remain in operation during construction.

What will happen to the Bookstore during construction? Do you think relocation will affect sales?Return to Top

The Bookstore will operate in the VU Multipurpose Room (MPR) during the construction period with access through the doors off High Street. Relocating both Vendor’s Row and the Bookstore to the VU Multipurpose Room will allow them to remain fully and easily accessible to students via High Street. The Bookstore will be compressed in size, but will continue to provide a full level of services and a variety of products during construction, offering alternative text and delivery methods where possible. Full campus patronage of the Bookstore will be key to maintaining revenues which keep textbook prices affordable and help support student programs on campus.

Is the VU Multipurpose Room (MPR) going to be available for rental or use by the campus during construction?Return to Top

The MPR will be unavailable for rent during the entire course of construction, beginning  December 2017 – June 2019. Viking Union staff are working with regular users of the Multipurpose Room to help them explore options on and off campus. The campus will partner wherever possible to support the disruption – not unlike the concessions made while Carver was under construction. Some events may change in scope or scale.

What will happen to KUGS during construction?Return to Top

KUGS will remain on the air throughout construction. Dawson Construction will work with KUGS so that the radio programming can make adjustments during the noisiest construction activities. Some light renovation activities to the KUGS suite will require limited access from the east stairwell and elevator later in the construction period.

Project Updates and Additional Information

What methods will be used to update the community about the progress of the project?Return to Top

Open houses have been held at various points throughout the planning process to share information and receive student feedback. An open house in the ESC was held during Fall 2017 which allowed students to ask questions and interact directly with students most involved in the project planning process and with the architects. Information, updates and initial renderings can be found on the project website, and web cameras of the project site will go live when construction begins. Signage adjacent to the site will be updated weekly to update construction activities as the project progresses.

Where can I find additional information?Return to Top

The Office of Facilities Development and Capital Budget PW698 project website.

  • Construction notices posted on informational kiosks located in the VU
  • Construction notices posted on Western Today and sent via email to affected building occupants
  • “Town halls”/presentations held periodically to keep campus community informed on project progress
  • Construction web cams on west side of Wilson Library and north side of Performing Arts Center

Project ContactsReturn to Top

Page Updated 02.08.2018
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