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This is a project that’s the first of its kind. You’re starting to see how it will take shape...
Dennis Mitchell, campus landscape architect

Class Gift represents the first of annual student based projects

For the University, the lot behind Dodson Auditorium will be a sanctuary, a green place of escape. For the Class of 2009, it will be a permanent footprint reflecting the time and energy spent as a living part of campus life.

Within the four months since construction began, a dingy and tired lot has grown into an open green field. As rapid progress continues through May, the Dodson lot will sprout trees and flower into a welcoming student garden.

Labeled the 2009 Class Gift Project by Student Government, the West Dodson Courtyard represents the first of a series of annual student based projects. Brick pavers, engraved with the names of 2009’s graduating seniors, will line the oval pathway around the lot and pay for the 2010 Class Gift Project. With self-perpetuating funds, the campaign will continue to benefit campus for years to come.

The evolution of the Dodson garden from a dirt lot housing portable toilets to a student sanctuary began even before Student Government developed the plan for the class of 2009. More than two years before, the University had discussed and approved plans to renovate the space into something welcoming and green. Without the proper funding, however, the lot remained a void.

When Student Government President Colorado Robertson approached the University with plans for a gift from his graduating class, administrators leapt at the opportunity to fund a greener campus. They offered him Dodson and welcomed the use of student funds.

Approval for the campus renovations didn’t take long. By November of 2008, the Student Government Senate had green-lighted the use of $70,363 from the SG Initiatives and Surplus accounts to fully fund the drainage improvements, concrete banding, sidewalk paving, bed preparation and landscaping of the West Dodson Courtyard.

“You have to look at the money not as funds for this project, but as funds to initiate a whole beautification program,” said Robertson.

About $33,666 was withdrawn from the surplus, which had been steadily growing for years with the intention of paying for new furniture in the Student Union. After finishing the Dodson garden project and purchasing Union furniture, there was still $15,000 in the account. The SG initiatives account grows by $1 per student every year and can only be used by Student Government on projects which cost more than $5,000. They set aside $34,581.78 from this account for the Dodson project.

By early January, while students were still at home with their families for the holidays, Facility Services was already digging up dirt and clay with backhoes and laying the foundation for the courtyard. The six-foot wide pathway was first laid in concrete then layered with the bricks, which will one day hold the names of the contributing students.

Those bricks were made available to students on February 9th for a tax-deductible $75 a brick. The campaign for their sale was targeted at the parents and grandparents of graduating seniors, forever reminders of their children’s presence on campus in lieu of more traditional graduation gifts. Student Government is looking to place the first order of 400 bricks by February 25th and to have them settled on the pathway by April 15th.

“We’ll be doing that and some marketing and promotional materials to senior organizations, as well as the student body as a whole, to get them to want to leave their footprint and adopt a sense of pride in developing this space for future classes of LSU,” Robertson said.

Though some of the grass covering the interior of the oval pathway was freshly purchased, the University caught a break when sod from one of the football practice fields became available. By recycling those patches of grass, the Dodson courtyard was flushed with green by the middle of February.

“This is a project that’s the first of its kind,” said Dennis Mitchell, campus landscape architect. “You’re starting to see how it will take shape, but when you see students really start to use it you’ll really start to appreciate it.”

For now, the field is sitting fallow as the sod takes root. Facility Services, while still compiling a list of assorted plants, is looking forward to the next few weeks when landscaping will begin. Students from the class of 2009 will be welcome to participate in a series of service days for the project, working alongside Facility Services to design and landscape the plants which will be the true hallmark of the courtyard.

“We’re looking for a way for students to find a cost effective way to put time and effort into a lasting impression on campus,” said Shannon Bates, Student Government vice president.

The true benefits of the Class Gift Campaign lay with the seniors of 2010. The completion of the Dodson sanctuary will provide them with enough resources to fund a similar project somewhere else on campus. Though the nature of that project has yet to be decided, Student Government is pushing for something personal and important to the students who will leave their names behind for future generations.

“We want it to be a personal project for 2010,” Bates said. “From landscaping to replacing windows on campus, it’s really whatever they decide.”

Adam Duvernay | Staff Writer | LSU Office of Student Media
Mr. Duvernay is a contributing writer to the LSU Office of Communications and University Relations
February 2009