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College libraries often serve as a hub for student learning and collaboration, and Olivet College’s Burrage Library is no exception. The Roznowski Learning Commons, located on the lower level of Burrage Library, is equipped with updated technology, state-of-the-art study resources and meeting rooms, making it a staple in a positive student experience. The space merges the social and intellectual interests of Olivet College students in an environment that infuses presentation, research and learning technologies into a contemporary space.

Thanks to a lead gift from Steve ’82 and Melinda (Strother) ’82 Roznowski, the lower level of Burrage Library was transformed in 2015 to provide a complete social learning experience for Olivet College students. The Roznowskis credit Olivet College for helping them develop the building blocks to learn. When the couple thought about helping others, their relationships with friends and professors from Olivet stood out.

“It took a while for me to embrace the responsibility and opportunity to assist my alma mater philanthropically,” Steve said. “After spending time getting to know President Corey and his staff, and getting comfortable with the vision for Olivet’s future, it suddenly seemed like something I not only should do, but I wanted to do. Once we were shown the idea for the Roznowski Learning Commons, it was a no-brainer. Melinda and I both immediately saw the need for the project and strongly identified with the value of a ‘learning commons’ space to help students get the most of what Olivet has to offer. It’s been a very rewarding partnership.”

“So much of the value of the college experience comes from interacting with and learning from others, and this requires comfortable, inspiring places and spaces for collaboration, discussion and just casual interaction,” Melinda said. “We love the way the new commons is incorporated into the iconic library, bringing Olivet’s past and present together in a way that we hope inspires today’s students and faculty to challenge each other to be their best.”

Positive Effects on the Student Experience

Senior Katie Priest credits the Roznowski Learning Commons in helping her create successful group projects and more.

“The Roznowski Learning Commons is important because it allows students to have access to comfortable meeting areas and open concept study spaces,” Priest said. “I like the separate conference rooms the most. They’re great for group projects or practicing presentations for classes because they have the large TV monitors that you can connect your own laptop to.”

Junior Sidney McIntosh also emphasizes that the Roznowski Learning Commons is particularly useful for professional interviews.

“In the conference rooms, I am able to set up Skype interviews in a professional and functional space,” McIntosh said. “This is great for students who are applying to jobs or internships. The Roznowski Learning Commons is also open late, which helps me study on my own schedule. Students have access to all the technology and space needed to be successful.”

Senior Keyon Rainey notes the comfortable, welcoming atmosphere in the Roznowski Learning Commons offers more than just a space to do homework.

“The Roznowski Learning Commons is also a great space to host student activities,” Rainey said. “There are many comfortable chairs perfect for watching your favorite show or just relaxing outside of your dorm room.”

The Roznowski Learning Commons has become a prominent area on the Olivet College campus. Students, faculty and staff alike note the space’s positive benefits and the new experiences it provides

Sara Benedict

In addition to the Roznowski Learning Commons, the Burrage Library is also home to a unique piece of Olivet College’s history. Recently, local historian and art enthusiast Ed Bentley donated a painting by Sara Benedict to the College. Benedict is a member of Olivet College’s first graduating class in 1863, which was comprised of three women. The painting exemplifies Olivet’s commitment to preserving and sharing the College’s legacy and serves as a symbol of how Olivet values brilliance and vibrancy inside and outside its buildings.

“When I learned of the painting’s history, I knew I had to make sure it went to Olivet College,” Bentley said. “I couldn’t think of any other place that would appreciate it for what it is. It’s more than just a painting of fruit. It’s a reminder of her talent and what she was able to accomplish.”

Currently, the painting is displayed in the Women’s Leadership Institute Conference Room, a space used to facilitate leadership development programs for students.

“The Women’s Leadership Institute is honored to host Sara Benedict’s painting in our space,” said Jamilia Johnson, Women’s Leadership Institute coordinator. “Sara was a resilient and driven woman, placing higher education as a priority in her life. She is a wonderful role model for today’s students.”

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