With little less than a month before construction on the new student plaza is completed, the area in the middle of campus looks like a wide-open slab of concrete.
Frankly, that's exactly the way Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta envisioned it.
"It is just a space," Moneta says of his pet project. "The utility of it is only based on the kinds of events and activities that take place there."
Moneta's vision for the plaza is for it to become a very user-friendly space. And to realize that vision, the University is doing everything it can to get as many students onto the plaza as possible.
During the first six weeks of the fall semester, the Duke University Union will host events on the plaza every single day. But the plaza's true grand opening won't come until Homecoming weekend, September 30th. Oktoberfest will be Friday afternoon on both the quad and the plaza, and the celebration will culminate that night-on the plaza-with a big-name act headlining the show.
Senior Alex Apple, president of the Union, is one of the students Moneta is counting on to provide the events that will make the plaza a vibrant gathering place and not just an expanded BC walkway. The Union has already planned the plaza's first big event: a party on the Friday night of freshman orientation. What excites Apple is not the huge events, but the everyday use of the new space.
"Day-to-day activities should be less focused on rushing from building to building," he says. "Instead of in the past rushing through the walkway to go to the BC to get McDonald's, you'll be able to take food outside out in public from the Great Hall or any of the other food options on the plaza."
Moneta said he did not want to overplay the significance of the plaza, given all of the other gathering spaces the University has provided in recent years. But he said if it can develop an identity as a "place to go," much like Bostock has become, it should be another "masterful" facility.
The plaza was designed to be a destination. To help get more students onto the plaza, it has been extended to the back of the Great Hall, with doors opening onto a deck. Students will be able to exit the Great Hall and sit under a canopy enjoying their food while overlooking the plaza.
But if student enthusiasm is going to make or break the plaza, Moneta should be scared of what appears to be the prevailing undergrad sentiment.
"I'm just excited to get to the Bryan Center quicker," senior Ryan Mulvaney says. "I feel like they're forcing importance on it, planning so many activities on it. We'll see if it's really worth all of the money they spent on it."
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