Downtown campus, computer labs underused

Downtown campus, computer labs underused

By Aniko Nagy

While students wait their turn in the InfoCommons, there are more than 35 computers available to the Northeastern community that often go unused. It’s a meeting space few know about, but many larger companies, like Fidelity Investments, regularly take advantage of.

“We call it the hidden jewel,” said Leslie Kruger, a sales associate at Aramark, the company hired by the university to manage the Batterymarch Conference Center, located in the Financial District.

The center is more than 14,000 square feet of meeting, computer and dining rooms. It features ergonomic chairs, tackable walls, multi-tiered seating in executive rooms and installed LCD projectors. Northeastern’s presence is recognized throughout the facility; a statue of a Husky sits in the middle of the lobby and photographs of university scenes decorate the halls.

Kruger said the conference rooms are focused on education, which makes them different from those of hotels, where guests may not be allowed to tack paper onto the walls and projector screens may come at an additional cost.

During the day, the space functions as an internationally accredited conference center, which businesses like Fidelity, Gillette and Mass General Hospital use for large conferences and meetings, and at night, university classes are held there.

“It’s a downtown campus used primarily for night programs,” Business Manager Bill Mallon said.

The space is located on the second floor of the Wyndham Boston hotel on Broad Street and has been leased by the university since 1994.

“The initial term ends in 2009,” Mallon said, “but there are options to extend for another 10 years.”

The center is managed by Louise Boucher, who also manages Northeastern’s suburban campus in Dedham.

Boucher said Batterymarch is generally used for a combination of continuing education, graduate and undergraduate classes offered by the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

“If they keep increasing the program offering, I’m running out of rooms,” Boucher said.

Although the center is generally busier at night, Kruger said its management would prefer a greater presence during the day.

“We want them to know that it’s available for students, not just faculty,” Kruger said.

Several professors said they were unaware of the space, and even Helen Anis, associate clinical specialist in the speech-language pathology and audiology department, who knew about the center and has attended conferences there, said she didn’t know about the computers and other resources available to individual students.

The computer rooms, which boast printers, scanners and LCD projectors, are available for free during the week from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. with the use of a Husky Card.

While not widely recognized, the Batterymarch Conference Center has begun popping up on the radar of some student groups. The Female Center for Excellence and Leadership (Xcel) chose the center to host its upcoming conference, “The Well-Balanced Leader,” on Saturday.

In the past, the group chose another Northeastern location, the Warren Conference Center in Ashland, to host its annual conference. When group leaders discovered Warren would not be available this year, Batterymarch came up as a potential alternative, said Neakai Lewis, Xcel president.

“For the location and the amount, we actually did get a good deal,” Lewis said.

To reserve meeting space in the center, call 617-556-8000.

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