The changing face of Laurier

Wilfrid Laurier University’s population has doubled over the last decade from 7,377 to 14,777 students.

This meant drastic changes to the landscape of the campus in Waterloo, as well as the Kitchener and Brantford campuses, which opened in 2006 and 1999 respectively.

Looking back, former president Bob Rosehart described the university as “tired” when he was hired in 1997.

“The challenge was to grow and to take the money from the growth to reinvest in the facilities,” said Rosehart.

“I think if we had not done this, if we’d not grown, I’m not sure Laurier would be an independent university now.”

With an increase in popularity and the growth in Laurier’s population, changes had to be made.
Throughout the past decade, those changes have been drastic.

“[Growth] forced us to rethink how we gave information to students and I think we managed to do it largely in a positive way,” explained senior advisor of multi-campus initiatives David Docherty.

Along with the physical landscape of the campus, the student body has changed dramatically.
Sean Geobey, who first came to Laurier as a student in 1999, recalls the obvious differences in the student body compared to 10 years ago.

“Probably the biggest change is that the population has exploded,” said Geobey.

Docherty also echoes that the student population has become more diverse and there has been a trend of young professors being hired by the university.

Along with the growth in population have come numerous advancements in technology, ranging from cell phones to laptops.

“The need for study space with electrical outlets has kind of ballooned and I don’t think anyone planned for that to be an issue at all,” said Geobey.

This is an issue echoed by Docherty, who says that although technology has enhanced the learning environment at the institution, it has also had a negative impact on learning in the classroom.

“10 years ago there were very few, if any, laptops in classrooms,” recalled Docherty. “Now all students are wired all the time and the downside is sometimes that can be disruptive in the middle of the lecture.”

The changes in population demographics and technology have been the main contributors to the physical alterations of the university.

Taking a look back over the last decade, it’s easy to see the correlation between the physical changes on campus and the way they have impacted student life.


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Courtesy of Laurier Public Affairs

The Athletic Complex was largely renovated in 2000 and the fitness centre was expanded later in 2004.

The new millennium saw landmark changes to the Laurier Athletic Complex, which dean of students David McMurray refers to as a “tremendous destination spot” for students.

“There wasn’t a fitness centre until a few years ago,” explained McMurray, going into great detail about the sorry state of the Athletic Complex. According to an October issue of The Cord, until the changes in 2000, the complex had not been renovated in almost three decades.

“[It] was in really rough shape,” continued McMurray, who went on to explain how the fitness centre appeared as though it was in “someone’s garage” and there “wasn’t a woman in sight.”

The $2.5 million project included power washing and repairing the exterior of the building, improving the coaches’ offices and constructing the foyer which included the lounge above the Hawk’s Desk, as well as special classrooms and the climbing wall.

The renovations allowed for equal space for men’s and women’s varsity team locker rooms, which meant a space reduction for the men’s space to make it the mirror image of the women’s room.

Also this year…

This year, the Terrace was given a facelift as Harvey’s was acquired, along with the Golden Wok, a Mongolian-style grill, which has since been replaced.

It was also the first year that students had to line up outside the bookstore to gain access inside, a measure implemented to secure the safety of the store.

The Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union also proposed a complete redesign and re-equipping of the existing 24-hour Lounge and tried to change the area’s name to “WLUSU Millennium Multimedia Lounge,” without luck.


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Nick Lachance

The former elementary school was purchased by the university in 2001 and is currently home to many tutorials and lectures.

Summer 2001 saw Laurier’s acquisition of St. Michael’s school.
According to the July issue of The Cord, the university was in need of classrooms and St.
Michael’s offered an immediate 820 seats.

In this year, Laurier had garnered more popularity among an unprecedented number of applicants. The university experienced a 59 per cent acceptance rate for their admissions offers instead of the regular 55 per cent, which caused a scramble for classroom and residence spaces.

The Cord reported in November of this year that Laurier had experienced a surplus of 962 students.

McMurray explains that currently there is still a need for teaching space, and that “St. Michael’s elementary school is just not up to the standard that we need at a university.”

2001 was just the beginning of a long string of concerns regarding Laurier’s growing population and the lack of space on campus.

Also this year…

Angie’s Kitchen was asked to fill the spot in the Terrace that Harvey’s was supposed to be occupying, as the university was still in negotiations with the food company.

In November, the students’ union requested a freeze on enrolment levels. As a result of student concerns voiced throughout the year, WLUSU released a statement outlining a number of problems caused by the increase in the undergraduate population.


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Courtesy of Laurier Public Affairs

As part of the Schlegel Centre construction, rooms were also added to the Arts Building, pictured here from the library’s roof.

The Cord reported that the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies opened on Sept. 9, 2002.

Due to the pervasiveness of the construction students expressed frustration, especially those having to continue their classes in the affected Peters Building during this year.

McMurray explained that the atrium of the Schlegel Centre is now considered the “home” of economics and business students.

“That’s a teaching and research facility that is second to none,” McMurray said. “The classroom setting is top-notch.”

With plugs in the classrooms and the floor of the atrium, the Schlegel Centre marked a turning point for technological capabilities and accessibility for students.

Also this year…

The Cord reported in February 2002 that the university announced that an expansion would be made to the Science Building to further research at Laurier.

Plans were made for the Grad House on Bricker Avenue to be demolished.

It was later relocated to make way for the future Bricker Academic Building with construction scheduled for July.

Laurier Brantford’s Grand River Hall added 27 beds, two 125-seat lecture halls, two 30 to 40-seat classrooms, one 30 to 40-seat computer lab as well as student lounge space, faculty office and a bookstore.

Waterloo College Hall was opened at the Waterloo campus in September of this year.
The library underwent minor changes and a storage area in Conrad Hall was converted into more dormitory rooms. The Quad was also given minor renovations throughout 2002.


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Courtesy of Laurier Public Affairs

King Street residence, which opened in 2003 to accomodate the double cohort, later suffered fire damage in 2007.

The year of the double cohort saw a reoccurring trend from Laurier’s past, and one that would continue well into the future.

The Cord reported that acceptances were up 14 per cent. This resulted in the university exceeding their enrollment by more than 500 students, an occurance marked by the construction of King Street residence.

Dan Dawson, director of student services, explained that King Street residence “not only increased capacity but [introduced] a totally new style of residence that we hadn’t had before.”

“The modified dormitory style is much better for building community and having a real family, team environment on a floor whereas the suites are more private,” continued Dawson.

But the building of the new residence was not without its snags.

Residence Life dons were not cleared to occupy the building until two days before the new residents were to move in.

First-year students also complained about shoddy insulation, poor paint jobs, missing mirrors, low water pressure, no toilet paper holders, lack of Internet access and issues with the elevator.

Also this year…

Laurier Brantford’s enrolment doubled for the fourth consecutive year; they boasted 675 students in this year, up from 320.


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Courtesy of Laurier Public Affairs

Bricker Academic boasts Laurier’s biggest lecture hall, seating 454.

Despite construction being finished on what was originally dubbed the “New Academic Building,” complaints were lodged throughout the latter part of the previous year about Bricker’s lack of completion.

In the previous September, there were leaks and parts of the ceiling remained without tiles.

By 2004, Bricker Academic classrooms with an unprecedented student capacity were being used.

“Bricker Academic Building and the room with 454 students … it marked a significant move for Laurier in terms of larger classes,” explained Docherty, who has taught in this classroom.

In light of Laurier’s increasing acceptance rates and the construction of newer, larger residences, Bricker Academic marked a turning point towards accommodating the amount of students coming to the university.

Also this year…

Current president of WLUSU Laura Sheridan remembers the days when Wilf’s used to have a pool table and arcade games, but with renovations costing $500,000, the on-campus pub underwent a much-needed update in 2004.

Yet another renovation to the Athletic Complex began this year.

“All of the transformation over the past 10 years within athletics and recreation [is] something that we’re really proud of,” said Dawson.


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A sketch published by The Cord in 2004 of the proposed 24-Lounge on the third floor of the Fred Nichols Campus Centre.

“There have been major changes to the third floor here in the Fred Nichols Campus Centre,” said Sheridan about the changes that have been made to the union space in the past decade.

During the 2005 renovation, which began in May and finished in September, increased study space was created along with extensions to WLUSU offices.

“I remember my first year [2004], there was a fireplace in the 24-Lounge, a Travel Cuts, Super Dave’s hairstyling,” recalled Sheridan.

All of these outside businesses, along with the student publications’ offices, were removed to make way for the renovations.

The Cord reported in May 2005 that the renovations were expected to cost approximately $600,000.

Sheridan also explained that prior to the renovations, the WLUSU offices on the third floor of the FNCC were called “the zoo” partly because they were confusing.

This new space allowed for a more comfortable, practical space for Laurier’s growing population, as The Cord reported in 2004 that the 24-hour Lounge was minimally used.
Also this year…

More renovations to the Athletic Complex tripled the fitness centre’s size. The renovations, which began in October 2004, had a budget of nearly $5 million.

Renovations to the Dr. Alvin Woods Building (DAWB) were announced in this year, and The Cord reported that the process would take 18 months to complete.


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Courtesy of Laurier Public Affairs

Alumni Field provides a public space for student recreation.

According to the May 2006 issue of The Cord, the drainage system at Willison Field, which used to house tennis courts, was badly outdated, and renovations to the space cost just over $2 million.
Renamed Alumni Field, Dawson sees the students as the main beneficiaries of this renovation, as they have been given an accessible public space.

“The opportunities to support casual recreation has been a huge focus of what athletics and recreation has done with Alumni Field,” Dawson explained.

“Other than the varsity soccer programs competing there, that space is kept open and available for student recreation virtually every hour,” he continued.

Alumni Field opened in September 2006 to mixed reviews. The men’s and women’s soccer teams would be the only varsity sports who could take advantage of the new space as it was not big enough for rugby or lacrosse.

The creation of an open space –during a decade where the majority of improvements to structures were to compensate for a rise in Laurier’s population – was an important event.

Also this year…

Brantford opened a Student Life Centre, which contained three floors of offices, student study space and a health centre and counseling services.

In Waterloo, the Hall of Fame and the C-Spot received $300,000 worth of renovations.

During Hall of Fame renovations, the Hawk was removed from the floor, followed by protests by students, which led to its re-instatement in 2008.

The Laurier Kitchener campus opened in the former St. Jerome’s high school on Duke Street in 2006, and became the new home of the university’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work.


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DAWB renovations saw the removal of the infamous escalator.

This year saw the opening of the newly renovated Dr. Alvin Woods Building, which was projected to cost around $12 million.

While a strike mildly impacted the renovations, the new DAWB included smaller study spaces for students, bookable meeting rooms, large conference rooms, large and small-scale classrooms and the removal of the one-way escalator.

As a former arts student, Sheridan explains that the renovations to the building made a great difference in terms of accessibility.

“I know before when I had a classroom in the DAWB I thought ‘uh-oh’; it was always a dreary place to study but now it’s a fantastic environment,” explained Sheridan.
Also this year…

Renovations occurred at University Stadium to the tune of $5 million. The field, which made its debut during the football team’s home-opener against McMaster, was updated to current standards, as there were change rooms built for the women’s teams.

The Cord reported that in 2007, 60 new wireless hotspots were set up to give students campus-wide access to the internet. Problems arose come September when another server had to be added to ease the strain of high demand.

In 2007 Laurier opened a teacher’s college. They admitted 71 students even though 2,700 applications were received.


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The 1E1 lecture hall in the Arts Building was given a facelift in 2008, including the installment of plugs and new seating.

The 1E1 lecture hall in the Arts Building was given a facelift in 2008, including the installment of plugs and new seating.

After the previous year’s countless renovations, this year saw only a few minor renovations and physical changes around Laurier.

Having not seen renovations for at least a decade, Arts 1E1 and the surrounding area began renovations in May of this year; the Tim Hortons in the hallway facing the large lecture hall was removed.

New flooring, seating, lighting and décor were given to 1E1 at the cost of a quarter of a million dollars in government grants.

One major change to 1E1 was the installation of numerous plugs in the lecture hall.

Docherty speaks to this change and the furthering of technology on campus. He claims laptop usage in the classroom is one of the biggest changes he’s seen at Laurier.

And despite his acknowledgement that laptops and cell phones often interrupt learning, Docherty does point out the benefits of technological advancements.

“The upside is that students are connected to information today in a way that years ago we could only dream of,” he said.

Also this year…

The Cord reported in April 2008 that Laurier and the city of Milton, Ontario had signed a letter of intent to pursue the possibility of opening a satellite campus in the town.

Residential Services also had to convert some single-room dormitory style rooms into doubles, in residences like Bricker, for first-year residence students.


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Nick Lachance

For a number of months in 2009, the pool’s future seemed bleak.

Turmoil over the past year for Laurier’s pool meant it was shut down in the summer of 2009 for renovations.

Students voted in a referendum to institute a $10-per-semester fee, a heavy contribution that ensured a future for the university’s pool.

In June, the federal and provincial governments announced that they would also contribute $1 million to the renovations of the Laurier swimming pool.

The pool officially closed on June 1st.

During the reconstruction the Laurier swim team practiced at the Harry Class Pool in Kitchener until the pool was re-opened in November.

The total cost of the project was approximately $4.2 million and will ensure Laurier’s Olympic-sized pool remains open for another 15-20 years.

Also this year…

Construction to the university centre at the Brantford campus was put on hold in January due to a $4 million shortfall.

In March, The Cord reported that the university projected to accept 3,060 first-year undergraduate students at Waterloo and 730 to Brantford.

Students arrived on campus in September of this year to find the campus more accessible with renovations of areas such as the Quad.

Numerous staircases were also converted into ramps.

“The accessibility of it all … students can move around more freely,” explained McMurray.


Opened in 2006.

-The campus is dedicated to the university’s Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work.
-It is based in the former St. Jerome’s high school building, which dates back to 1907, in downtown Kitchener.
-The completely renovated building is home to 20 faculty members, 15 staff and more than 280 graduate students.


Opened in 1999.

-Professor Terry Copp of the history department first suggested to former president Rosehart that Laurier should create a satellite campus to meet Brantford’s needs.
-Dawson claims the Brantford community has shown unprecedented support for the university.
-Population was over 1,200 in 2008.