One of the selling points for coming to a small liberal arts campus is the community and tight-knit culture on campus. Almost any student at Concordia would say this one of the reasons why they are currently loving their Cobber experience. What a lot of students do not realize, or that they take for granted, are the factors around campus that contribute to this feeling.
One often overlooked contribution to the sense of community at Concordia is the physical design of our campus. Flashing back to look of campus in the early 1990s, the college tells a different story. The worn cobblestone walkway we know, stretching from Knutson to the Integrated Science Center, was 7th Street back then. The sidewalk that runs alongside Knutson from Lorentzen to Brown Hall was also a road full of traffic. Oh, and just over 30 years ago, there was no Bell Tower. These monumental changes are an afterthought today as most students associate the Bell Tower with old tradition and remain unaware of the fact that it is a relatively recent addition to our 125-year-old college.
This redesign led to an established center of campus that is the beating heart to our Cobber culture today. The Bell Tower now serves several roles for current students: a reminder that you are late to class, the ultimate selfie backdrop, or the religious call to worship. Its statement about the type of college we are and the mission we stand for is the literal backdrop of many of our activities. Having this central space on campus, which includes the Bell Tower, the library, and Knutson, creates a place Cobbers can truly call home. Other schools, especially those with greater numbers, suffer as a result of their students being spread across larger locations (the U of M is literally spread across the Twin Cities) or not having community spaces like our atrium. Other factors, like a campus having a student body large enough that two dining centers are needed, allows for many students to never come into contact with their peers and creates a community of one-for-all-and-all-for-one at large state schools. Having our tried and true Anderson Commons as the only dinner table has brought countless Cobbers together by getting them all in the same physical space.
This sense of built-in community is embedded into our architecture and thus how we physically go about our lives. If there was another cafeteria in the East Complex to accommodate athletes and their crazy schedules, none of the students living on the other side of 8th and 12th would see this huge chunk of their Cobber peers. This is an obvious overgeneralization, but it illustrates how our campus is designed down to the buildings themselves to bring students together and foster a sense of community. Even the streaming light that shines in Knutson’s atrium that lures many Cobbers to stay longer than they should, talking to peers before realizing they have other obligations elsewhere, is no coincidence. The Maize, the Korn Krib, and the Centrum are all within steps of the campus center, with the Bell Tower as a lighthouse, and the library sitting as a quiet reserve in the background.
All of these landmarks located within steps of each other serves a purpose beyond their obvious ones; to create a place that feels like the campus’ town hall, a place where Cobbers experience their time together, eat together and enjoy Maize fries together. When choosing a college, countless Cobbers picked Concordia for a feeling that Concordia was inexplicably home. A huge reason behind that magic is the campus’ physical center and the Bell Tower, which did not come into existence until the last third of Concordia’s lifespan. It should make you smile a bit to know that a campus full of students and faculty trying to make the world better and promote progression of our society while upholding tradition has a campus layout that parallels such honorable values.