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The Memorial University Battery Facility is on its way to becoming a public engagement hub

Graduate student Richard Kissoon admires the view from one of the common areas of the MUN Battery Facility. Kissoon was the first graduate student to spend the night at the MUN Battery Facility.
Graduate student Richard Kissoon admires the view from one of the common areas of the MUN Battery Facility. Kissoon was the first graduate student to spend the night at the MUN Battery Facility.

For the third year in a row, the Memorial Universities Battery Facility has a wait list for September.

Richard Kissoon, a graduate student from Trinidad and Tobago, was the first student to stay at the Battery Facility, in September 2015.

“Look at that view,” said Kissoon. “How can I not love it here?”

Kissoon completed his first degree in computer science many years ago, and worked in Trinidad for over 20 years.

“I’m from an island, and even though the climates are completely different, I still feel at home here,” said Kissoon. “Being close to the ocean always comforts me.”

Now, he is studying Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University.

The sleeping quarters at the MUN Battery Facility.

For Kissoon, this space played a role in his decision to stay in Newfoundland.

“At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay here,” said Kissoon. “But the longer I stayed, the (more) I fell in love with the province.”

Soon enough, this 85-room residence will provide more than just a place for the graduate students to lay their heads.

Wheelchair-accessible kitchen at the MUN Battery Facility.

“When the Battery Hotel went up for sale, it felt like a golden opportunity for Memorial,” said Rebecca Cohoe, senior communications adviser for public engagement at Memorial University. “We knew it would allow the university to grow and to work more closely with the people of the province and our community.”

Cohoe said that after discussions with the school of graduate studies and Graduate Students’ Union, they realized there was a huge need for more graduate student space, and different kinds of space.

This facility will include a public engagement space, to improve the connection between Memorial University and the province.

Rebecca Cohoe

“It’s located in the heart of the city, we thought that it would be an awesome platform to bring Memorial closer to the people of the province,” said Cohoe.

A number of units will be calling this facility home: The Harris Centre, Gardiners Centre, and the Genesis Centre.

“All the great work that these units already do, will be amplified,” said Cohoe. “And we want to make sure the graduate students are involved in all of the work.”

Construction ongoing at the MUN Battery Facility.

Currently, when graduate students apply to stay in the residence of the Battery Facility, they are asked whether or not they have an interest in public engagement.

“When we started this project, we knew that we wanted the graduate students to play a really important role in the life of the facility,” said Cohoe. “As we move into a more active phase we’re really going to be looking for students who want to get involved.”

Cohoe told The Telegram that the goal is to have the grad students sharing their work with the public, and also collaborating their work through Memorial units and public partners.

Many international students call this facility home — and Kissoon said it’s a great way for them to get involved.

The facility will also include a bookable space, used for large conferences or meetings.

“We have done a significant amount of public consultation before we even started construction,” said Cohoe. “We heard, ‘here’s what we want, here’s what we don’t want, here are things that we feel are lacking now in the community’.”

Cohoe said that they met with people living down the street from the Battery, to some of the bigger decision-making organizations in the province.

“We didn’t want to build a conference centre if we didn’t need a conference centre,” said Cohoe.

The public engagement space is aiming to be ready by fall of 2018.

 

beth.penney@thetelegram.com

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