Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Strategic Vision

Posted on October 25th, 2012 by

The West Mall begins with a granite path at the west doors of Christ Chapel and transitions from the Sesquicentennial Plaza to prairie, savannah, and forest to connect the campus with the Linnaeus Arboretum (Photo by Tim Kennedy).

This story was written by freelance writer Joe Tougas, who will write a series of stories related to Campaign Gustavus this year. 

Students and faculty at Gustavus Adolphus College are witnessing one of the most exhilarating phases in the College’s history. For the most part it’s a tangible phase that can be seen and touched, but in many cases the true effects of improved learning spaces will come to light through the lives of the people who use them.

The exciting promise of Beck Hall, the College’s newest academic building…the West Mall’s development as a nature-enhanced pathway…the breathtaking Sesquicentennial Plaza recently dedicated in the presence of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden—these are some of the recent milestones in construction and campus improvements that are enhancing the current environment while ensuring a rewarding future to all who study at, work for, and contribute to Gustavus.

This recent surge in construction is directly related to the recommendations of the College’s Commission Gustavus 150 Strategic Framework. Much has been done, and there is more on the drawing board.

When classes began in the fall of 2011, there was a new excitement on campus with the opening of Gustavus’s newest building, the Warren & Donna Beck Academic Hall. The $30 million, 125,000-square-foot building houses the departments of Communication Studies, Economics and Management, History, Psychological Science, and Sociology and Anthropology.

Most recently the Sesquicentennial Plaza and West Mall were added to the campus, creating a more inviting space for outdoor learning and reflection. For alumni Warren (“Buster”) and Nina Malo West ’71 ’70, this was the perfect opportunity to match their passion for the outdoors and Gustavus through a commitment to the campaign.

“Nina and I met at Gustavus and both of our sons, Casey ’01 and Jeff ’04, are graduates,” said Buster West. “We have maintained a tradition of seeing our Gustavus friends every Homecoming.  Somehow we seem to find our way onto the campus several times each month.”

Buster ’71 and Nina ’70 West have chosen to be recognized for their capital gift to the campaign for the West Mall prairie. They share the prairie section with the Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation.

The “West Mall,” so named because it stretches west from Christ Chapel, leads students and visitors alike from the formal environment of the chapel to Linnaeus Arboretum. Along the way is the stunning Sesquicentennial Plaza and native vegetation. The plaza offers an open-air amphitheater designed to encourage special events as well as music and theatre performances. A 16-foot-tall sculpture commemorating the College’s 150 years of academic excellence adorns the plaza.

As a donor to the prairie component of the West Mall, West said he appreciates the College’s incorporation of the area’s natural identity in its design.

“It is a bold step by the College to bring part of its heritage (the prairie) into the heart of something new–the West Mall. The prairie, much like our lives, can be magnificent and also a little messy, with beauty that takes a little more investigating to fully appreciate.”

The College’s strategic plan also recommends the renovation of the Alfred E. Nobel Hall of Science, a plan that has now been approved through the schematic design phase. Under discussion is adding 60,000 square feet to the building’s current 100,000 square feet. It may also connect to the Anderson Theatre and include a black box theater among other features. The current plan also recommends connecting Nobel Hall via a skywalk to the Olin Hall for Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science.

A modest expansion to address accessibility in the A.H. Anderson Social Science Building is also being considered along with the Nobel Hall project. And a library renovation, another recommendation of Commission Gustavus 150, is being discussed.

Financing these and other building projects requires the commitment of donors such as the Becks, the Wests, and others who have a personal stake in the continued success of Gustavus.

“As a financial adviser I frequently ask people about their legacy,” West said. “What is it that they want to do to make a statement about their values and beliefs?”

Strengthening Gustavus facilities for years to come is one way to make such a statement—and to help move conversations into construction.

Campaign Gustavus is a $150 million comprehensive fundraising campaign that will help transform the College by funding the recommendations of Commission Gustavus 150. A commitment to the capital strategic vision supports the campaign pillar of Teaching and Learning and will benefit future generations of Gusties. Give today by going online to



Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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