Administrators notice rise in Vern popularity

As four years of major Mount Vernon Campus construction projects reach an end with the official opening of Ames Hall Friday, University officials report climbing student traffic on the satellite campus.

While some student groups are still not convinced by the Vern’s ability to hook Foggy Bottom dwellers, Jeff Llewellyn, first-year director of the Center for Student Engagement, said staff noted that more students are coming to the campus and that they are also “on campus longer.”

Since Ames Hall, a former dining venue, opened for classes this semester, offering new study spaces and a cafe, Llewellyn said “the campus quad has been more lively.”

In the fall, West Hall hosted 189 student-run events and 123 University department events in its 15 rooms available for reservation, Colette Coleman, associate director for events and marketing, said. In fall 2010, 140 student groups and 70 departments used the Vern.

“The opening of West Hall has been a great success. It has provided an increase in inventory for space, which was the primary goal,” Coleman said.

The most popular venues on the Vern include West Hall’s black-box theater, the dance studio, the recording studio and a conference room reserved under B108, Coleman said.

Tim Miller, director of the Center for Student Engagement, said his office “focus[es] our programs on the current residents of Mount Vernon and know that what we offer will also entice and interest other students who come to the Vern regularly.”

Throughout the academic year, the center co-hosts Wacky Wednesdays, which allow student organizations to pitch events or activities of their choice. Nearly every Wacky Wednesday was booked throughout the fall semester, and almost every day has already been reserved for the current semester, Llewellyn said.

Still, some student groups struggle with lower turnout rates for Vern events.

The College Republicans have held two events on the Vern over the last two semesters, out of a total of 25 events.

“The problem with the Vern is not the facilities or space, which are great,” Chris Wassman, public relations director for the College Republicans, said. “It is the lack of response and turnout that we get for Vern events because of the inconvenience of getting up there that makes us, as a group, normally opt for Foggy Bottom events.”

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