ALMA — Before a crowd of faculty, staff, alumni, friends, members of the public and its Board of Trustees, Alma College on Thursday, May 5, cut the ceremonial ribbon on its new heart of campus, the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons.

Located on the site of the former college library, the new, 60,000-square-foot Hatcher Learning Commons is designed to serve as a hub of student activity — a place for students to gather and collaborate, centered on community, in a liberal arts environment. The $14-million project, guided by Michigan-based firms Granger Construction and The Collaborative, formally broke ground in May 2022 and opened to students in January 2023.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to welcome the Alma College community to our new Greg Hatcher Learning Commons, perhaps the most significant construction project to come to our campus since the Swanson Academic Center was built in 1972,” Alma College President Jeff Abernathy said. “A tremendous amount of work has gone into this space since our groundbreaking and the vision and dedication to see it through to completion has been remarkable.

“What we have established is effectively the new heart of campus. How wonderful to see students, faculty and staff already using this space for so much. We look forward to many, many years of the Greg Hatcher Learning Commons being used to advance the mission of Alma College and improve educational outcomes for our students.”

The Hatcher Learning Commons now features a cafe, open performance area, classrooms and study rooms, digital media center and book collections, as well as other offices and amenities. The exterior design blends the college’s traditional red-brick architectural style, which is called Prairie School, with glass, to help the community see what’s happening, inside and out. The interior design is built around vibrancy and collaboration, with both well-lit, open spaces and smaller conference and study rooms with a variety of furniture arrangements.

Among the new amenities are the Loch Lomond Café featuring Qdoba Mexican Eats restaurant, which is set to open to the community later this spring, a display called “Our Stories, Our Mission,” which serves as a celebration of Alma College’s 137-year academic history, and the Andison Center for Teaching Excellence, named after the late Thomas K. Andison, which supports faculty collaboration and development.

“The Learning Commons serves as a symbol of our academic excellence,” said Darryl Schimeck ’82, chairman of the Alma College Board of Trustees. “It’s a space to facilitate interactions, collaboration and community-building. It’s a celebration of Alma’s uniquely personalized and engaging educational approach, something that will bring students to campus and help ensure our viability for many years to come.”

The Hatcher Learning Commons was the signature element of the “Our Time is Now” fundraising campaign that concluded in 2021 and inspired more than $125 million in gifts for Alma College. The largest campaign in the history of Alma College, this was the largest capital project within the campaign.

“To see this building come to life is one of the absolute top highlights of my involvement with Alma College,” said the building’s namesake, Greg Hatcher ’83, a member of the Board of Trustees. “As a student, I never could have imagined something like this at Alma College. I’m so pleased that future generations will be able to socialize, study, collaborate, learn and create in this space.”