Claflin University has big plans for a student center that will connect the university with the community. Get the story from Dionne Gleaton at The Times and Democrat below.

Breaking around on Claflin University’s new student center are, from left, Dr. Karl Wright, provost; Dr. Zia Hasan, Vice President of planning, assessment and information service; Tijuana Hudson, Vice President for Fiscal Affairs; Dr. Dwuan J. Warmack, president; James K. Lehman, board chairman; Dr. Cletra Peters, Vice President and chief of staff; Shirley Biggs, associate vice president for Human Resources/Title IX coordinator; Dr. Leroy Durant, Vice President for student development and services; Tony O’Neal, athletic director; Reynolda Brown, interim vice president for enrollment management, and Dr. Marcus H. Burgess, interim vice president for institutional advancement. (Credit: The Times and Democrat Correspondence Yon Line)

Claflin University broke ground on a $30 million, three-story student center on Friday.

Plans call for the center to include a theatre, performing arts center, 800-seat ballroom, eSports center, meeting/conference rooms and a food court with national, name-brand eateries.

“It’s just not for our campus. It will serve as the living room and a central gathering space for faculty, staff, students and community members,” Claflin President Dr. Dwaun Warmack said.

The university hopes to have the 85,000-square-foot center open by June 2023. It’ll be located at the corner of Magnolia Street and Goff Avenue.

Zakarrius Hayes, a senior criminal justice major, is excited about the development of the student center. He said Warmack is doing a good job in elevating the university

“I feel really good about it. I will be graduating in May, but hopefully I will get a chance to come back to Orangeburg to be able to see this nice building. I am so glad that we have something that we can actually expand with our students and the Orangeburg community,” the 23-year-old said.

Warmack said, “Students spend 18 to 22 percent of their time inside the classroom in college. So that means 80 percent of their time is outside the class. If living and learning is not happening outside the class, we’re missing the boat. This center will allow us to make sure that learning is continuing to happen on our campus.”

Claflin Vice President for Fiscal Affairs Tijuana Hudson said the center will also be a place where student services will be consolidated in one location, including the “mail room, print shop, book store, and all other student service areas, such as career services, that focus on student success.”

“The state-of-the art facility will bring amenities and expanded services to the community, and it will continue to build upon previous investments in Orangeburg. We are excited about what today means for Claflin and the Orangeburg community as we continue our pursuit of elevation and transformation,” Hudson said.

Wells Fargo, the Innovate Fund, the South Carolina Community Loan Fund and PNC Bank were the four financial institutions involved in the project’s financing, she said.

Warmack said, “It is my goal that we burn every mortgage when we cut the ribbon when we move in here June 2023. So we’re going to raise $30 million to have this building paid for.”

He thanked Orangeburg city and county council members, along with the university’s trustee board members, for their support in making the student center project a reality.

“This is just the beginning. We’re looking for many more partnerships to come,” the president said.

Hudson said there will be many ways the community can use the student center, including as a job training site.

“It’s all about bettering the people that live within the community, where they are able to build themselves, get better jobs and be able to improve their living conditions,” she said.

Claflin Board Chairman James K. Lehman said, “We look to the future as we build this building. This building will shape generations of students to come, and we hope that it will have just as large of an impact on the community of Orangeburg as not only a gateway to Claflin, but a gateway to Orangeburg and to the community and activities in Orangeburg.”

Orangeburg City Administrator Sidney Evering said, “We’re beyond excited. Like Dr. Warmack said, this just doesn’t impact Claflin. I’s impacting the entire community. We’re all in this together. So what is good for Claflin is good for South Carolina State (University), it’s good for OCtech, it’s good for Orangeburg and vice versa.”

“So we all need to be working together to continue to move Orangeburg forward. This is just a huge step in that direction, and we all hope to take similar steps together,” Evering said.

Warmack said, “I’m extremely excited. God is faithful. We’re not taking for granted the favor that God has had. During this time, we have a lot of colleges, universities and businesses that are closing, a lot of folks who are furloughing and laying off, but we’re still in a growth mode.

“God has been faithful to this institution during this time. So we want to be good shepherds over what we have, and we hold a responsibility to be able to do that for our community and for our students.”

Greenville-based MCA Architecture Inc. is the architect for the project. Columbia-based M. B. Kahn Construction Co., Inc. is the general contractor.