Fostering Community in a New Student Center

In our quest to become the institution of choice for women who seek a welcoming, connected and forward-thinking college, Cottey is committed to creating a dynamic campus environment.

Campus improvements directly impact the student experience, which is why we remain committed to investing in our facilities. In 2018, Cottey’s Board of Trustees, representatives of the P.E.O. Sisterhood and Cottey alumnae, students, faculty and staff engaged in a process to create a new Campus Master Plan. The result is a plan recognizing the needs and expectations of today’s students while embracing and respecting the past.

Cottey College is a student-focused college with no student center! This is the most important project identified in the Master Plan.

A student center is the heartbeat of a college campus, serving students, faculty, staff, alumnae and visitors. In addition to amenities and conveniences, student centers provide another place for students to get to know each other—to build community.

Cottey’s student center will be developed in the lower level of the Chapel, right in the middle of the campus. With 5,000 square feet available, the center will have room for:

  • Gathering, studying, meeting and dining space for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
  • The Cottey bookstore/spirit shop, currently in the lower level of Main Hall.
  • The Chellie Club, now in the dark, lower level of Hinkhouse Center.
  • Lockers for Cottey’s growing commuter population.

In addition to the open gathering areas, the student center will feature two small meeting rooms and a large multi-purpose room that might be used for larger group gatherings, as a dressing area for bridal parties or performers in the chapel, or even for yoga classes. Electrical outlets and charging ports will be available throughout the center.

The natural lighting in the center will be enhanced by the addition of two large terraces that will expand the center an additional 3,700 square feet on each side. The West Terrace will offer a beautiful multi-level patio with seating for up to 150 people. A ramp that will provide wheelchair access to the student center. The East Terrace is designed to serve as an outdoor amphitheater that may be used for a variety of performances. The amphitheater, along with additional tables, chairs, and benches, will seat 200 people.

This new student center will provide many inviting and relaxing areas for students, faculty, and staff to congregate and develop the relationships that are integral to the Cottey experience. It will also provide prospective students, alumnae, P.E.O.s and BILs with a place to relax, browse the spirit shop, enjoy a cup of coffee, and interact casually with students, faculty, and staff.

The Cottey community celebrated placing the Chapel cornerstone in 1956.

“There is nothing more important than the student experience at Cottey College, and we know that this center will enhance that experience beyond our expectations,” said Cottey President, Dr. Jann Weitzel. “Our student body deserves a place to study, eat, and socialize that caters to their needs.”

The Chapel, which was built in the 1950s with funds raised by BILs, has been the site of numerous chapel services, Founder’s Day activities and special ceremonies. The upper level of the chapel will continue to house the sanctuary, which will be revitalized and air-conditioned to provide a beautiful space for gatherings of students and visitors. It also will provide a venue for concerts, lectures, weddings and special services.

In alignment with Cottey’s commitment to supporting a diverse campus community, an interfaith sanctuary will provide students of many faith traditions with a place to meet, meditate and worship.

BILs Lead the Way

Generous BILs raised the money to build the Chapel in the early 1950s. They have taken the lead again to create the student center and refurbish the Chapel.

We asked BIL volunteer Chuck Baker to share his thoughts on the renovation of the Chapel.

Chuck Baker

Cottey C: Why use the lower level of the Chapel for a student center?

Chuck: The Cottey Chapel is right in the middle of campus. The chapel structure itself is in wonderful shape and needs very little attention; it has great bones. It is the perfectly sized space, so we are able to stay within the existing footprint and get a lot more bang for our buck.

Cottey C: Is the lower level a desirable space?

Chuck: Absolutely. It has a tremendous amount of natural light coming from many large windows with formed concrete window wells, and the ground level (the grade) outside is relatively low. This will open to a patio area.

Cottey C: Tell us more about the patio!

Chuck: The architect has designed a patio area almost as big as the whole interior of the student center. It will be excavated to the west, toward Rainey Dining Hall. The patio will have a ramp for accessibility, terraced seating and a performance area.

Who’s the Architect? Cottey Alumna Amy Eckhoff!

Amy Eckhoff ‘94

Twenty-five years ago, Amy Eckhoff graduated from Cottey College. She continued her education in the architecture program at the University of Kansas. Today, she is an associate with GastingerWalker&, an architectural firm trusted by Cottey College for major projects. Eckhoff is the lead architect on the student center and Chapel renovation project. She also designed the Rogers Fine Arts Building and the renovation of the P.E.O. Hall parlor.

Chellie Club On the Move

Allyson Williams and Karlie Acton

The beloved Chellie Club snack bar will move to the new student center, too. In 2019, the student entrepreneur club Enactus took on operations of the Chellie Club. Project co-leaders Allyson Williams and Karlie Acton enthusiastically support the upgraded space for the Chellie Club.

“The student center is exactly what Cottey needs,” Allyson says. “This will add value to the people who are currently on campus, as well as to those who are thinking of joining the campus.”

“The main goal of Chellie Club is to create an atmosphere where people will gather” Karlie says. “When we move to the student center, it will be that space where everyone wants to meet!”

Looking at the Shop

Renovated Chapel Supports Spiritual Growth

By Kidest Kitema, Class of ‘19

Rev. Erica Siguake

The Chapel built in the middle of campus is seen as the heart of our College. The non-denominational Chapel, that is inclusive to all, is the site of many services such as Founder’s Day, Hanging of the Greens and other special ceremonies. The Chapel symbolizes what we love about Cottey—support for each other, community and commitment. We are excited about its future!

The renovated Chapel will provide a venue for concerts, lectures, weddings and other special services. A side chapel will host interfaith worship and meditation. Rev. Erica Sigauke, the coordinator of spiritual life and campus diversity, works with students to serve their spiritual needs.
“The Chapel connects cultures with the common spiritual themes of love, respect and gratitude,” Erica says. “The renovation of the Chapel, as well as the move of the bookstore and Chellie Club will increase the love here!”

Apart from food and books bringing people together, the new student center allows students to be part of this transition. Erica believes this is the time for incredible future leaders to blossom, with more opportunity to bring growth through their involvement. This change, she adds, is like a dream becoming a reality, where Virginia Alice Cottey’s vision is being fulfilled.

“The development of the student center and renovated of the Chapel supports academic excellence and the work of faculty,” Erica says. “It affirms the work of the community.”

Photo caption: The Cottey community celebrated the placing of the Chapel cornerstone in 1956.

New Home for the Bookstore

Lois Witte

The Cottey bookstore will move from Main Hall to the new student center. The bookstore serves many purposes. First, it’s an academic resource center for students, faculty and staff. It’s also a souvenir and spirit shop for all, including visitors.

Lois Witte, the bookstore manager, has worked in this position for 25 years. Lois is excited about the store’s move to the Chapel building.

“The location of the student center will draw more people to come together,” Lois says. “This exciting change will enrich the experience of all involved with Cottey College.”

Funding the Project

As a student-focused institution, we are committed to directing all tuition and fees paid by students into their education. Therefore, campus improvements are made possible by the generous support of Cottey alumnae, the P.E.O. Sisterhood, BILs and friends of the College.

Creation of a student center and refurbishing of the interfaith chapel/performance area, plus establishment of an endowment for care of the facility, requires an investment of $3.2 million. This investment will create more incredible futures for Cottey students. Thank you, in advance, for your support.

Many naming opportunities are available.

Contact Sherri Taylor, vice president of institutional advancement, to learn more about this project at 417-667-8181 ext. 2120 or email her at

You also may make a gift immediately online, or mail a check to Cottey College, 1000 W. Austin, Nevada, MO 64772.

“Never before has there been such a generation of young people so fitted for leadership, so willing to undertake an achievement as at the present time. What they shall accomplish depends largely upon the guidance they shall receive during their college life. Is there not then an important work for our College to do?”

Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard