Alumni center’s goal is keeping grads connected to university

Nick Bratcher

As construction begins, WKU is wrapping its past, present and future together into the new $8.6 million Augenstein Alumni Center.

WKU broke ground on the new alumni center in July, but the Alliance Corporation of Glasgow started the early stages last week, said Kerra Ogden, project manager for Capital Construction and project representative.

“It was a relief that it had gotten to that point,” she said. “It’s an exciting time for Western because that building will be the one that all the alumni can come back to and call home.”

Donald Smith, assistant vice president of the WKU Alumni Association, said the center will hold a little something for everyone.

However, the center’s first priority will be to serve WKU alumni who outnumber current students, 4-1.

“If you look across the country, you’ll see all these alumni centers being built over the past 20 years,” he said. “All of them talk about how it exponentially changes their programming that they have for alumni and the amount of people that get involved and engaged in the institution because of it.”

Despite its alumni-centric theme, the new center will also serve as the welcome center for prospective students.

That link between life before and after undergraduate study on the Hill will help express WKU’s desire for involvement after graduation, Smith said.

“The idea is for students to come in through this building,” he said. “There’s a WKU museum where you see the history and traditions of the university. You see all the alumni that have come before you.”

Guests will even enter in a hall decorated with the portraits of distinguished WKU alumni.

“When students come in for that first experience, you can say, ‘See all these people?’” he said. “‘They sat in the same classrooms. They attended the same hilltop campus that you are.’”

The new alumni center will also serve as a gateway to an expanding downtown Bowling Green, Smith said.

“What we’re really trying to do is bridge the campus with downtown,” he said. “If you look at a lot of college campuses across the country, there’s a synergy between the downtown and the retail development and commerce in conjunction with the campus.”

WKU has future plans to renovate the Craig Alumni Center, said Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction.

“We’ve got it way down the list, but there’s a renovation at some point because that’s a very old structure. That’s years off obviously.”

But first, WKU has some special plans for the current Alumni Center that include President Gary Ransdell, Russell said.

“It would be the future office for the president of the university,” he said. “That’s whether it’s renovated or not. He would like to be in that building.”