Campus News

Staffers work to make Cooke-Hochstetter more student-friendly

Lab technicians in the Department of Biological Sciences — (clockwise from back left) Barbara McCabe, Catherine Pollina, Kristie Reilly and Shanna Snider — worked together to gather and repurpose surplus funiture to create more student-friendly study space in Cooke-Hochstetter. Eileen Sylves, who is missing from the photo, also took part in the project. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published February 16, 2018

“We saw kids sitting on floors and sitting on benches with no place to go.”
Catherine Pollina, lab technician
Department of Biological Sciences

The second floor hallways of UB’s Cooke-Hochstetter complex, home to the Department of Biological Sciences, were bare and quiet, lacking the energetic student community found in many other areas of the North Campus.

But then five department staff members stepped in to change that.

Lab technicians Barbara McCabe, Catherine Pollina, Kristie Reilly, Shanna Snider and Eileen Sylves say students were not spending time in the department because there was no real space for them.

“We saw kids sitting on floors and sitting on benches with no place to go,” says Catherine Pollina. “The library doesn’t have as many tables as I think there used to be. We wanted a place for the students to sit comfortably.”

So the women decided to make the space more student-friendly.

The technicians learned that University Libraries had some surplus furniture, so “we called Bill Offhaus at the libraries and he said, ‘come on over and have a look. You may have whatever you want,’” Pollina recalls. “It really took university-wide cooperation to make this happen.”

On their own time — usually during their lunch hours — the technicians went to work, setting tables and chairs along the once-vacant hallways. The chemistry department also donated some tables to help the cause.

Students study in the new space in Cooke-Hochstetter. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Hitting the books in the new space in Cooke-Hochstetter. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Students had no place to meet and study in the biology department before five lab technicians stepped in. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

Students now had a place to meet and study. But the technicians weren’t finished yet. They also converted an empty room on the first floor into a study space that is now consistently filled with students.

“That room was part of the pharmacy school before they moved (to Kapoor Hall on the South Campus) and they had it as an apothecary-museum type of place,” Pollina says. “It’s not like any other classroom and [the department] didn’t really know what to do with it. So we scavenged for more tables and chairs, and we made this room.”

They also installed some display cases and filled them with biological artifacts to pique students’ interest. The formerly empty hallways are now teeming with student activity.

“It’s a great place for me to get my labs done and it’s near where all of my labs are located,” says biological sciences major Cristal Bruce. “You can come and sit like it’s a little study center and it’s really quiet over here, too. It’s very helpful and I’m very grateful for what they did.”

Moving furniture around and decorating hallways are not typically part of a lab technician’s job description. And the technicians did the work on their own time. So why do it at all?

“We’ve been trying to make this much more conducive for the students to feel like it’s home-like,” McCabe says. “We’ll come in on weekends to start cultures, and we find students at these tables and they seem to like it. We’d like [students] to feel welcome in our department and that they have a home here.”


What a great way to tell students they are welcome in your department and to let them know their presence is desired and appreciated! Excellent job!


Shelaine Herndon

Wonderful! Congratulations! Well done!


Carolyn Wright