Students who spend a lot of time in Roosevelt hall now have a much more modern and stylish place to study between classes.
Eastern Michigan University professor Dr. Julie Becker is “working for furniture,” as she calls the deal that she struck with Allermuir, the company that produced the new furniture in Roosevelt.
In exhange for the furniture, Beck will be traveling to Allermuir’s corporate headquarters in Ohio to teach employees how to use the design software Gerber. She uses the same software to teach EMU students pattern drafting and product production.
“They were struggling with the pattern making and getting it electronic, so I’ve been going there for a couple years now,” she said. “They said: ‘We’d like to have you come in more often,’ and they’re still going through some growing pains, so I said, ‘Maybe we could barter.’”
The furniture in the lobby previously was also brought to EMU by Becker. It was donated by La-Z-Boy, a company she worked at for many years before becoming the director of the Textile Institute at EMU in 1999.
“I think the furniture is more functional now, because it’s a little firmer; it’s contemporary, it’s not traditional. The La-Z-Boy furniture served its purpose, but it was more ‘let’s take a nap’ furniture, where this furniture is for ‘in-between classes, maybe I need to get some work done,’” Becker said.
Graduate students Raechael Bucher and Rae McDonald, who spend a lot of their time in Roosevelt, agree with Becker.
“It does make you want to work,” said McDonald. “It’s professional. The other furniture… It was loungy, and this is like, ‘I mean business,’ which we needed here. It’s suitable for us.”
Bucher agreed with McDonald.
“Every time I go up there [to the lobby], it’s populated. People are sitting in it, enjoying it,” she said.
The high volume of people using the furniture is exciting for Becker, but she also wants people to know the work that went into creating it and to respect it.
“This is a public area; you shouldn’t be having your feet up on the furniture. It needs to last. When you put your time and your money and your effort, you want it to stay looking nice for a long period of time,” she said.
Becker estimates the value of the new furniture to be over $60,000. The greatest factor that contributes to this is the quality of the product itself.
“In the last 20 years a lot of the federal and state regulations for public buildings have gotten a little bit more restrictive, and they had to comply to fire regulations. All of those materials cost more to produce,” Becker said.
The new furniture also has more technology capabilities than the previous. The table has six outlets and 12 USB ports for students to charge their phone or laptops. The table is currently not hooked up to electricity because it draws more power than Roosevelt can support right now, but the building is on the university’s list to be updated.
Jay Stec, a plant manager at Allermuir, had only good things to say about the deal and about Becker herself. He believes EMU students are privileged to learn from her.
“She has so much life experience from her La-Z-Boy days to the classes she does on her own. Books can teach you one thing, but she’s done it all. You get more of a hands on or real life experience from her versus someone reading out of a book,” he said.
Becker hopes that students enjoy and use this furniture as a place for collaboration.
“Hopefully it can be a gathering place for conversation,” she said.