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New Frontiers Agricultural Hall provides expanded space for the college’s more than 60 student clubs and organizations. (Photo by Sara Frost)

Concrete Contributions

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

Behind the curtain of construction barriers, Oklahoma State University Ferguson College of Agriculture students have taken center stage in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.

They may not be swinging hammers or mixing concrete, but students have played a part in constructing a vision.

“Student involvement in this project has made it a place where students will succeed,” said Dr. Cynda Clary, associate dean for the Ferguson College of Agriculture. “For the students to have direct input about what helps them learn better, connect better and feel a part of their community is going to make this facility longlasting.”

When the conversation about the new building for teaching, research and OSU Extension began, so did the inclusion of students.

“One of the focuses early on was to try and have as much faculty and student involvement as we possibly could,” said Dr. Randy Raper, OSU Agriculture assistant vice president for facilities.

“We wanted the building to fill some voids the current Agricultural Hall has.”

Students have played an active role in shaping this project, offering their insights and perspectives along the way, he said. Raper gave credit to the architecture team for pulling together the vision for the new build in an intentional way, and Clary agreed.

“I was so impressed with the collaborative way our architectural firms sought input from all users and were able to distill it down into something that could be implemented in the new building,” Clary said.

“To see the Student Success Center be a focus of thought and creativity with the architects was really special because they paid attention to what students told them.”

Studio Architecture of Oklahoma City, in partnership with PGAV Architects, led the programming and design efforts for the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.

“Our team supported the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in developing a student survey,” said Mike Schaadt, principal at PGAV Architects.

“We also facilitated listening and design review work sessions. The sessions allowed us to better understand what students are looking for in a modern academic building.”

From those sessions, the importance of the need to highlight the student-centered culture of the Ferguson College of Agriculture was clear, he added.

For students like agricultural economics master’s student Tess Haddock, who spent the majority of her undergraduate time in Agricultural Hall, the lack of spaces to meet with faculty and other students was evident.

“When they ran the initial surveys to ask us what we wanted, I think the No. 1 thing we asked for was those collaborative spaces,” Haddock said. “Now, with the building near completion, to see that be one of the highest priorities shows they trusted and valued our input.”

The New Frontiers project, once completed in summer 2024, will create roughly 3,000 square feet of huddle rooms, student organization rooms and study spaces.

“Instead of constructing a square building to do exactly what Agricultural Hall does, the way this building is designed to function will increase student engagement and undergraduate research opportunities,” Raper said.

When the original Agricultural Hall was constructed, the approach was vastly different, he said.

“Learning primarily occurred within the confines of classrooms, and students would simply go home afterward,” Raper said. “In today’s context, much of the learning extends beyond classroom walls.”

The modern design means the possibility of more community interactions, Clary said.

“The huddle spaces are great, but so are those open spaces,” Clary said. “Often, as students eat lunch or grab a snack, someone from their class, a faculty member, or a teaching assistant comes by, and there’s an opportunity to sit down and visit.”

When it comes to the new building, the focus is not solely on the formal utilization of space, Clary added, but also the informal aspects play an equally significant role.

“The new building will become a popular destination for students, a testament to the role they have played in shaping its vision and offerings,” Raper said.

Opening the door to collaboration among students, faculty and architects is something the students have taken notice of, said Eva Van Dyk, agribusiness senior.

“We always talk about the genuine care and commitment the faculty invest in student success,” Van Dyk said. “The Ferguson family is extending into this building by asking us the little things like what chairs we want and focusing on the collaborative spaces. It proves the student-first approach of this project.”

Environmental stewardship and energy conservation also were high priorities for students during early discussions of building design, Schaadt said.

Four former OSU environmental science undergraduate students — Daussin Afonso, Julia Frusciante, Makenna Paniel and McKinly Dortch — provided their input and developed a plan to identify potential sustainable solutions for the new building.

As a part of their senior capstone projects, they developed a proposal to recycle the original demolition debris for use as the building’s foundation, which was utilized on site, Raper said.

“One of the first things the builders had to do was bring in 1,800 loads of dirt to build the site up and then bring in a layer of rock,” Raper said. “The concrete remnants of Agricultural Hall North were recycled as a recommendation from those students.”

When the doors open for students in August, another dimension of their project will become reality.

The eco-conscious dining materials at Larry & Kay’s Dairy Bar will be used to reduce waste, which is an effort to decrease the carbon footprint in a practical manner, Raper added.

Beyond bricks and mortar, the New Frontiers project filled voids the current Agricultural Hall could never address, Raper said. The facility is a nod to the power of student voices and the belief students are not just the beneficiaries of progress — they are the architects of it, he added.

“Because of the questions the faculty, staff and architects took the time to ask, the final product will fit students’ needs,” Van Dyk said. “It is going to be evident to students who walk into those doors that the building was made for them.” 

Making The Final Touches

Construction Timeline: December 2023 to August 2024

  • Framing, drywall and paint
  • Mechanical and Electrical
  • Finishing touches and equipment installation
  • Cleaning and training
  • Grand opening — Fall 2024

Story by: Elizabeth Rosson | Cowboy Journal

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