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School of Dentistry unveils new Student Center

Published: February 20, 2024 by Dylan Allen

UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry christened the new Student Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 9.
UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry christened the new Student Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 9. Photos by Dwight Andrews.

The UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry community excitedly gathered to unveil the Student Center, a new space on the fourth floor that students can call their own, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 9.

Following the relocation of the Pediatric Dentistry Clinic into the dental school in 2022, the Student Center was temporarily displaced while leadership worked to identify a new place where students could convene on their own accord. However, after an assessment, a unique opportunity was presented for two spaces on the fourth floor — the relocation of the Westbrook Classroom and the new Student Center in the place where the original Westbrook Classroom occupied.

In his remarks on the transformation, Dean John A. Valenza, DDS, thanked many for their behind-the-scenes roles in making this vision a reality. Among those mentioned included Brady Smyth, senior facilities construction project manager; Art Jeske, DMD, PhD, associate dean for strategic planning and continuing dental education; Janet Fenske, director of the Library & Learning Commons; and Muhammad Walji, MS, PhD, former associate dean for technology services & informatics; and Joe Morrow, associate dean for management; and from UTHealth Houston central administration, President Giuseppe Colasurdo, MD; Senior Executive Vice President Kevin Dillon, MBA, CPA; and Senior Vice President Mike Tramonte, MBA, CPA.

The new Student Center resides next to the Alumni Circle and offers 2,121 square feet of space. Featuring a classroom and a lounge area, the center can comfortably accommodate 70 people with room for both group gatherings and individual studying or relaxation. An additional amenity is a new, nearby kitchenette area that includes three refrigerators, eight microwaves, and an ice maker.

The main portion of the Student Center has a large-screen television that is currently wired for cable, but can easily be used to connect outside devices or gaming consoles. The classroom portion still has a projector and lectern that can be used for students to conduct presentations or connect their devices to watch movies or sporting events.

To cater more towards the needs of students, School of Dentistry leadership assembled the Student Center committee to act as a liaison between the student body and the planning and design of the new student center. These students were involved from concept to completion, assisting with all aspects of the composition, including the color palette selection, furniture designs and arrangement, tile patterns, kitchenette design and more.

The members of the student center committee consisted of Alexis Adams, Lucas Ly, Emily Ray, Natalie Rodriguez, and Megan Thigpen.

“I really feel like this addition to the school has been created for the students, by the students,” said Aemin Kim, student council president. [Leadership] has really taken into account their feedback and input into making this space the most comfortable.”

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