LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - USM students, faculty and staff will see some new services and amenities on the Long Beach campus this fall. A $1 million construction project is underway. The improvements came about after a petition drive spear-headed by students at Gulf Park.
Three buildings are under renovation on Beach Park Place, which is on the east side of the Long Beach campus. One building will be the new Wellness and Fitness Center. It will come with weight machines, cardio equipment, spaces for group classes like Zumba and Yoga, along with a shower, lockers and offices.
The facility is free for students, but the faculty and staff will have to pay a monthly fee.
The middle building will become the new Health Clinic. It will have exam rooms, offices and a conference space. A doctor and nurse will be available to offer mental and physical medical services. If they are not on duty at the time, students can use the telemedicine room to talk to a doctor or nurse on the main campus in Hattiesburg.
"It's basically a Skype program. If a student comes in and has a particular health need that can't be met on this campus, they can Skype into a clinic in Hattiesburg, and we can meet that request in a real time scenario," said Campus Architect Jason Bigelow.
The third building will house the School of Social Work. It will have six faculty offices, a conference room and gathering space.
The structures have been owned by USM for many years and they have sat vacant since Hurricane Katrina. Since the buildings are more than 50-years-old and are considered historic, USM plans to preserve the original architecture, fireplaces, mantels, arches and flooring.
"It's this administration's opportunity to respond to this neighborhood, respond to this campus, and say 'We're investing here. We're not going anywhere. We love our students. We love this campus,'" said Bigelow.
USM leaders say the new amenities are being provided as a direct response to students who signed petitions earlier this year, calling for more services that are similar to what USM students in Hattiesburg are getting.
"I love that the gym is going to be right across the street from the school and the clinic. We've been fighting for this for awhile to get these facilities, because they're offered in Hattiesburg but weren't offered here. I will definitely be coming to the gym a lot," said USM senior Angela Cotten.
"That means a lot in terms of showing that we're listening to the students, faculty and staff, to show that we want to continuously improve services here and make this the place to be for higher education. We heard about some things they'd like to see us enhance this campus with, and this was high on the list. So, we're fortunate to be able to jump on this," said Miller. "Everyone is excited about having these facilities, and they can't wait to use them. So, the sooner we can get them open, the better."
The work is expected to wrap up in about 45 days, and the facilities should be open by the end of September.