New picnic tables added to campus for the 2020-2021 school year have made studying and eating outdoors easier for students.
Dr. Tamara Long, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Life, identified the need for more outdoor seating on campus this summer as she took strolls around campus.
“I walked the campus very often, sadly, missing our students and praying for their return,” Long said, “but as I was thinking about all this looking around, I was like ‘we really have amazing outdoor green spaces, but we really have very few outdoor dining spaces.’”
Long said as more studies came out about how being outside could limit the spread of COVID-19 compared to indoor spaces, she considered possible solutions.
“The more I thought about it I kind of laughed to myself, like why have we not had more of these, to begin with,” Long said. “Abilene really does have pleasant weather especially in the mornings and evenings, even when it gets ridiculously hot.”
Long quickly ordered the picnic tables to get them on time before students arrived on campus, and then facilities and maintenance assembled them placing them in shady places around campus.
“I give a huge shoutout to all of our guys in facilities and maintenance,” Long said. “They stayed overtime so those benches could all be assembled and placed on campus before students got here for move-in.”
There are eight picnic tables with umbrellas that tilt so that students can point them in various directions to block the sun. Long said she hopes to soon get more umbrellas and picnic tables.
Long said the students’ reaction to the new picnic tables has been positive. Melina Mbumwae, sophomore financial management major from Zambia, said she liked the new picnic benches.
“It’s nice to sit out rather than in the library or in another building,” Mbumwae said. “You can sit out with your friends. They aren’t the most comfortable but in between classes it works.”
Long said she is happy that the students enjoy the picnic tables. She said she hopes it will be a safer environment for students to meet, talk or study and that they will continue to use them.
“I love seeing the students just sitting there studying together,” Long said. “I have meetings out there at the tables. I love it. I thought that it was the right thing do, and it turns out I think it was.”