Ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration 4:30 p.m., Friday, September 8, public open house 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, September 9

BISMARCK, ND Three years ago, in the spring semester of the 2014 academic year, Jason Shipman of Watford City, thought that his tenure as student body president would be pretty run-of-the-mill student government stuff: be at functions and be a strong advocate for his fellow students and classmates. Check and check to those two boxes. But Shipman and his Vice President, Liv Stromme from Bismarck, had no idea that their role and services would become so much bigger than they could have ever imagined and something so much bigger than themselves—something that would impact not only current students, but also future generations of students and Bismarck-Mandan community members. Before the semester ended administration floated an idea past them about a $272-million- dollar capital campaign called Vision 2030.

“And it seemed to me that over the course of one summer break, we returned to campus and learned that Vision 2030 was no longer just an idea, but a reality,” said Shipman, an alum in his third year of doctorate study as a veterinarian at Colorado State University. “It was happening, and there was a great sense of energy whenever we would meet to discuss details and initiatives surrounding the campaign. Our main focus was to make sure that students from a variety of different backgrounds were represented and were able to offer their suggestions for a space that was truly being created to serve as the heart of campus – an area where all our students, faculty, staff, and the greater community could come together.”

“Vision 2030 led to an excitement on campus and a reality about how quickly our campus was growing,” said Stromme, an alum who is in Cleveland, OH, doing fellowship work with Venture for America. “We knew the students needed a central heart of campus and the university center became a reality.”

And that “heart of campus,” the new Lumen Vitae (Latin for light of life) University Center, is becoming reality this week as the University of Mary invites the media to its grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m., Friday, September 8, at the north entrance of the building. The celebration will also include speeches, dedications and tours of the new facilities. 

Many of Shipman’s and Stromme’s wishes, and the dreams of their classmates will have become reality as the Lumen Vitae University Center is a one-stop-shop for guests. Upon entrance people will immediately be greeted with a welcoming waft of cuisine from the new Crow’s Nest Restaurant—open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rare for any university of Mary’s size, and the only one of its kind in North Dakota, the Crow’s Nest will have the state’s first G-8 allergy-friendly station where none of the eight most common allergens will be used in preparation or serving.

“This station is available to everyone eating in the Crow’s Nest whether they have an intolerance, allergy or simply choose a certain lifestyle,” said Shayna Griffiths Jordan, director of Dining Services at Mary. “Those working on the G-8 station have additional knowledge regarding allergies, intolerances and or special diets. Our executive chef, as well as our sous chef, are also very familiar with any special dietary requirements and we make every reasonable accommodation to provide a food-safe environment.”

Griffiths Jordan says it is pretty obvious that administration listened to the students’ needs. There will even be a teaching kitchen run at various times where students can learn to make a variety of foods.

“It is truly the most amazing dining facility I have seen in my 17 years of experience,” added Griffiths Jordan. “Stations include, but are not limited to, a breakfast bar, Caribou Coffee, deli, Dakota Homestyle station, pizza/pasta station, international station, grill and many more. The students will enjoy the constant variety. The food is fresh and made to order. We hope to bring back the culture where the food is the center of life. I think one of the most challenging aspect students will find, because there are so many options and so many amazing choices to choose from, will be, what do I choose to eat today?”

Once students, faculty, staff or guests have satisfied their appetite, they can find several study areas or spaces to relax, socialize, play games or watch TV on over 50 big screens. The Lumen Vitae University Center is linked to the McDowell Activity Center (MAC) by a corridor that features a convenience store, the Marauders book and clothing store, and the Marauders Hall of Fame. Adjacent to the Crow’s Nest on the upper level is the state-of-the-art Founders Hall named after the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation who founded the university—a new preeminent community gathering space and stateroom that seats over 600 banquet guests and over 1,000 people for special events. It’s equipped with smart windows with electrochromic glass and programmable sensors that detect the illumination of the sun so guests can still look outside at the sunset and see the best Lewis-and-Clark-view in North Dakota overlooking the Missouri River Valley.

Below the Crow’s Nest on the lower level are two full-service, side-by-side amenities: the new American Bank Center branch and new clinic. Nearby is the beautiful wide-open Starion Bank Living Room.  The lower level also features a Hospitality Conference Center fully equipped with a 150-seating capacity conference room, a smaller meeting room and an executive boardroom. All the student organizations will now be based inside the new Student Involvement Center across from the bank and clinic.

“It’s fitting the university named the center Lumen Vitae, not only because it provides a beacon of light, and a focal point for student activities and student engagement and student life throughout campus, but because it beautifully reflects the mission and vision of the university in a way that forms leaders in the service of truth and instills in them that very light of life that our world so desperately needs to see,” said Portland, ND, native Ryan Capouch, a 2014 alum and former student body president who is currently earning his doctorate degree from the Arizona College of Optometry in Phoenix.

Neither Capouch, Shipman or Stromme will be able to enjoy the new Lumen Vitae University Center like the current student body will on a daily basis. But as alum, they know they will be welcomed home with open arms by current students and celebrated for the fruits of their labor as student pioneers of this project—and its vision.

“Going into the project, we knew we wouldn’t ever be on campus for the finished product,” added Stromme. “But much like serving in our student government roles, as leaders we saw it as an opportunity to give back to the campus and make sure we could advocate for what students needed the center to be. I can only hope that this center will help future students have the wonderful college experience I enjoyed.”

“My hope for the students that are able to experience these incredible projects is that they understand just how much others care about the future of the University of Mary,” stated Shipman. “And with that understanding, I would hope that they also feel encouraged to give of themselves, in whatever capacity, for the future of Mary.”

The public is encouraged to attend an open house the following day on Saturday, September 9, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., to see and tour the new Lumen Vitae University Center, the Marian Grotto and the Gift Hill Memorial. Bring your appetite as free food will be served.