The walk between the John R. Yurtchuk Student Center and Duns Scotus Hall looks much different these days, with sprawling green space, trees, and a peace garden.
The Saffrin Public Square, which was named in honor of Paul Saffrin – a steadfast supporter of Daemen and the current vice chair of the Board of Trustees – was waiting for students when they returned to campus for the Fall 2023 semester, marking the completion of a decades-long vision to replace the large parking lot between the student center and Duns Scotus.
“This project has already been transformational for the university,” President Gary A. Olson said. “It alters the look and feel of the entire campus, makes the university much more of a traditional pedestrian campus, creates a distinctly safer environment for our students, and substantially enhances the overall experience.”
The traditional campus quad includes sidewalks, newly planted mature trees, and a Ringo Starr ‘Peace and Love’ sculpture in the honorary International Peace Garden. A fountain made in Europe will be installed in May.
To make way for the public square, parking was relocated to four newly constructed lots strategically hidden amongst trees and vegetation in the Getzville Road section of campus.
“The Saffrin Public Square is the culmination of a decades-long project to transform the look and feel of the entire physical campus in order to make Daemen an inviting place for students to live and study in for the next four or five years of their lives,” Dr. Olson said.
The beautification project also included the stone wall in the front of campus, more than 260 new trees, stone benches, the Founders Bell, and the first-ever Daemen flag.
Enhancing student life at Daemen
According to Sabrina Fennel, assistant vice president for student success, the campus enhancements are an integral part of what makes up the total college experience that Daemen provides for students. That experience is a combination of high academic standards supported by a diverse student body, a welcoming campus, and ample opportunities to learn and grow outside the classroom.
“While our academic standards are set high, Daemen continues to offer so much to support the students and add to their learning experiences,” she explained. “The new public square is the latest example, providing a calming green space for students to unwind and take a break from studies while better connecting the campus.”
For Derek Raymond ’23, the total college experience at Daemen includes opportunities to learn in real-world situations. Currently pursuing his MBA at the university, as an undergrad he served as an orientation leader and the traditions chair on the Student Activities Team, eventually moving up to vice chair.
He also worked as a building manager at the Yurtchuk Student Center – then known as the Wick Center – helping to coordinate the use of rooms and overseeing other activities throughout the building. On top of that, he worked in the department of athletics, doing a little bit of everything, from helping to operate the fitness center and gymnasium to setting up for events and working the camera and scoreboard.
“At Daemen, I was able to throw myself out there in different roles where I could listen and learn as I went along,” he recalled. “I had the flexibility to be very involved on campus and still have time to focus on academics.”
As an MBA student, Raymond continues to be involved. He now works as a graduate assistant for student activities where he runs the TGIF events. TGIF has been a popular Daemen tradition for over 30 years, taking place every Friday for students to mingle and learn more about student activities and organizations.
A culture of inclusion
Daemen has long created a university environment that not only values diversity and inclusion but also places it at the forefront of the learning experience. Tiffany Hamilton, vice president for institutional equity and belonging, explains that this environment is another critical component of the total college experience offered at Daemen.
“The time our students spend learning with and from diverse perspectives is critical to Daemen’s mission to form ethically minded, intellectually robust decision makers and socially responsible graduates,” she noted. “Throughout their educational journey, students acquire the invaluable skill of acknowledging and appreciating others’ lived experiences.”
At Daemen, themes of diversity and inclusion are present across departments from business, history, and political science to philosophy, languages, and religious studies. Hamilton says research has found that diverse learning environments encourage students to think critically and solve problems more effectively. Other research suggests diversity enhances learning outcomes and better equips students for the global workforce.
“Inclusive excellence is part of Daemen’s strategic plan,” Hamilton concludes. “We recognize the value of cultural, individual, and experiential differences and embrace diversity through a culture of inclusion.”
Sarah Bovo said she knew she wanted to work in the medical field since she was thirteen. She also knew Daemen’s Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program was the right choice after a visit to campus.
“I visited in the winter, and with the snow covering the smaller, enclosed campus community, it just felt like home,” she said. “It’s a place where you can really build connections and interpersonal relationships as part of your college experience.”
Now in her fourth year of Daemen’s five-year, nationally recognized PA program, Bovo is part of the PA Student Society at Daemen. Members help out in the community through toy drives and other initiatives, and in the spring, they help provide medical exams for patients in underserved areas of the community.
Bovo said working with the student society in the community allows students to practice the skills they have been learning in the classroom with actual patients while interacting and learning from their peers. She also notes that all faculty in the program are practicing PAs in a range of specialties, including cardiology, neurosurgery, pediatrics, and family practice. Graduates of the PA program also return as adjunct professors, sharing their experiences in different fields such as OB-GYN and orthopedics.
“The Daemen PA program is amazing because you can build relationships within the university while creating connections off campus in the community that could potentially lead to career opportunities,” Bovo concluded. “As a whole, Daemen offers so many choices and opportunities to create your own unique college experience.”