Oct. 18, 2022
Hunter Student Commons enhances the student experience
The brand-new Hunter Student Commons is enhancing the student experience, expanding access to student supports, and providing a central innovation space for the University of Calgary and beyond.
On Tuesday, UCalgary officially launched the new facility located on the site of the former MacKimmie Block, across from the Taylor Family Digital Library, though students have been accessing the building since fall classes began.
“The day this building opened, it was alive with students. It was full the very first day, and you can see and hear the electricity associated with having this place filled with students who are learning and growing together,” says University of Calgary President Ed McCauley.
Hunter Student Commons is the culmination of three significant building projects across UCalgary made possible by $270.6 million in support from the Government of Alberta.
It includes $135 million to create the brand-new Hunter Student Commons, helping the University of Calgary improve accessibility and the student experience, as well as the MacKimmie Tower redevelopment and upgrades to the Professional Faculties Building.
Hunter Student Commons is named in honour of the Hunter family, whose ongoing philanthropic support, including $40 million to establish the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, has helped UCalgary become Canada’s entrepreneurial university.
“Thank you to the Government of Alberta for making this redevelopment possible. And a very special thank you to the Hunter family for enabling this vision where our students, faculty and staff can come together to explore the incredible possibilities of innovation and how we can impact the world,” says McCauley.
Entrepreneurial thinking in action
The top floor of the building is now the permanent home of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. Complete with an innovation sandbox, workstations for startups, and event space to promote networking and engagement, the hub’s new location will provide a central innovation space for UCalgary, allowing it to continue to build entrepreneurial momentum on campus.
“It’s really important to have a central space for the community to demystify entrepreneurship,” says the hub’s executive director, Keri Damen. “We might have people come in here who aren’t sure about innovation ecosystem. (The hub makes) it tangible and (helps) people know each other and support each other to build their businesses.
“Hunter Student Commons will be a game-changer in building and amplifying innovation at the University of Calgary and across Calgary.”
When Doug Hunter and his wife, Diane, graduated from university, they’d never heard the word “entrepreneur” before. Soon, they were starting their very own company, H. Douglas Hunter and Associates.
It was the lessons learned in the early years of their business — lessons about creative problem-solving, brainstorming and innovation — that they wanted to impart to UCalgary students when the Hunters donated $40 million to create the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking in 2017.
“Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy. They are the ones who create jobs and build companies,” says Doug, Hon. LLD’19, who is also chairman of BlueSky Equities and trustee for the Hunter Family Foundation.
“You have to be able to take risks, step out and take that first step and learn from your mistakes, and get support.”
“And get up and try it again,” adds Diane, BA’67, MA’69, Hon. LLD’19.
“If you decide to bite the bullet (and embrace entrepreneurial thinking), it can pay back so much more than what you expect. It is wonderful being independent, being able to see your own ideas develop creatively, flourish and build, and share among other people.”
New home for students
Hunter Student Commons is designed to be a place where students can explore something, create something and even disrupt something.
Built to enhance the student experience, it includes collision spaces to spark new ideas and study areas for deep dives into projects.
The second floor is a one-stop shop for access to student supports. The new home of the Registrar’s Office, which includes Enrolment Services, it offers student advisers to provide answers on everything from finance to graduation requirements.
Future students can also meet with recruitment teams, access admissions workshops and take tours from the new Prospective Student Hub.
Students can’t wait to make it their home away from home.
Faculty of Arts student Sherry Huang says she is glad to be able to benefit from the new student-focused building.
“Hunter Student Commons is a place for students to gather, have lunch, study,” Huang says. “There’s lots of open classrooms and spaces. The view here is beautiful.
“I definitely think this will be a popular space among students.”
National leader in green buildings
Already a national leader in green building practices, Hunter Student Commons and the MacKimmie Tower redevelopoment are zero-carbon certified for design buildings.
It’s a smart building, with technologies providing real-time analytics on energy performance. Solar panels on the walls capture Calgary’s abundant sunshine, while the use of concrete and glass allows it to use the elements as natural heating and cooling systems.
Landscaping in the reimagined Swann Mall just outside Hunter Student Commons also seeks to restore the land to how it was more than a century ago, with plants and grasses reintroduced under the guidance of Traditional Knowledge Keepers and Indigenous Elders.
Amid all the infinite design details throughout Hunter Student Commons, students like Alexandra Ringrose are just thrilled to have access to the new spaces.
“It is such a nice building with great light. It is much more quiet than other spaces on campus,” says Ringrose, second-year Werklund Education student.
Learn more about Hunter Student Commons, including more details on what is included in the building.