An artist's rendering of the Danielle N. Ripich Commons at the University of New England's Biddeford campus which, once completed later this year, will serve as the campus' complete student hub. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Courtesy of University of New England

An artist’s rendering of the Danielle N. Ripich Commons at the University of New England’s Biddeford campus which, once completed later this year, will serve as the campus’ complete student hub. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Courtesy of University of New England

BIDDEFORD — The University of New England is in the process of constructing a new student commons and has announced it will name the building in honor of outgoing university President Danielle Ripich.

The three-floor, 60,000-square-foot building, which will soon be the newest on the university’s Biddeford campus, shall be called the Danielle N. Ripich Commons in recognition of the president who for about 11 years has led the university into a period of unprecedented growth.

In her tenure, the university has grown its enrollment by more than 6,000 students, to over 10,000, constructed new residence halls and athletic facilities and opened a study abroad campus in Tangier, Morocco.

The new $25 million building will be a multipurpose, “student-centric” facility to support the everyday needs of residential, commuter and graduate students, said the university’s Vice President for Operations William Bola.

“Everything we do is based on the students,” he said Tuesday.

The commons, slated to open later this year, is being constructed as part of the university’s master plan.

“One of the things that came out of (the master plan) was we needed to provide more gathering spaces to students, we needed to enhance our food service venue and we needed to leverage the unique location of UNE on the Saco (River) and by the Atlantic (Ocean),” Bola said. “That was the inspiration.”

Once completed, it will feature study areas, relaxation spaces, a fire pit, outdoor patios and a shopping venue to serve the needs of all students. The building’s third floor will also house the campus’ main dining venue — featuring views of the Saco River, plus a pub-style eatery with outdoor seating on the ground below.

The second floor of the commons will be connected to the main floor of the campus’ library, the Jack S. Ketchum Library, by a glass bridge to make transitions between the campus’ academic core to the commons easier.

The second floor will also house the university’s academic support services, including study abroad services, global affairs offices and academic success programming. The goal, Bola said, is to bring those services to the students, rather than have students seek them out on their own.

“We wanted to try to create an innovative student support system for the 21st Century,” Bola said.

Ripich announced in May that she would retire after 11 years at the helm of the private university, which is Maine’s largest. Upon her retirement, effective July 1, James Herbert will assume office as incoming president, university officials announced in February.

Herbert — who holds both master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro — has for the past 15 years held various positions at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he currently serves as executive vice provost and dean of the Graduate College.

Ripich said she is “touched” by the building’s dedication to her, which was announced during a tribute dinner in her honor during a board of trustees meeting on March 10.
 
“I am so deeply honored by the naming of the commons,” Ripich said in a release. “It’s going to be such a magnificent structure that is sure to bring a great deal of convenience and pleasure to the entire Biddeford (student) body.”

The building’s construction falls in line with many of Ripich’s values and several of the university’s eco-friendly initiatives. The commons will boast several high-efficiency features including solar panels, bird-safe glass, a living “green wall” to grow food, and high-tech mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

“The building really depicts the student-centric way that President Ripich approached everything she did during her 11 years at the University of New England,” Bola said.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]


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