Though he occupies a temporary office and began his work at the University only a few days ago, Paul Breitman seems to be making a smooth transition to his new position as director of the Frist Campus Center and said he hopes the new facility will play an important role in students' lives.
"I want to get out and meet people and be visible as a contributing member of the community," Breitman said yesterday. "I really see this as a tremendous, exciting opportunity. It's an opportunity to build and create and develop something at an institution the caliber of Princeton."
The campus center is scheduled to open in two phases, according to Breitman. Ten classrooms, a lecture hall and the offices of the Near Eastern and East Asian studies departments will open Jan. 31. The rest of the building should be open to be previewed in May and will officially open for the upcoming fall semester.
Breitman came to the University after spending 18 years at Rutgers University as associate dean and director of student centers and student activities.
At Rutgers, Breitman coordinated 250 campus organizations, including the student government. He also directed student funding and managed the four student centers on the Rutgers campus. "It was a big operation," he said.
"I see myself as a student advocate," Breitman said, adding that while at Rutgers, he relied on advisory boards to hear student opinions on policy issues as small as the color of carpeting or the type of chairs.
Breitman said he imagines the campus center will become a venue that will be open and comfortable for all members of the University, noting that the Third World Center and the Women's Center will be among the organizations housed in Frist.
"I want the center to be viewed as a happening place," he said. "When they're not in class, the library, or lab, they should be saying, 'Hey, let's go to the campus center and see what's happening.' "
The building's design includes large open areas that can act as common spaces for students. There will also be small "nooks and crannies" for students who want to curl up with a book or a laptop, Breitman said. "It's a house of serendipity. You might go there to check your mail and then see a chamber group playing in the hallway," he added.
In addition to its varied recreational functions, the new facility will emphasize academics, Breitman said. Frist will house the Near Eastern studies and East Asian studies department offices as well as classrooms. "I hope it will provide for interactions and socialization for students and faculty outside of the classroom," he said.
When people see the building, they will understand Frist's potential, Breitman said. "When you start building that credibility, people become creative and demand more," he said. "That's how we grow and become essential and integral. The center needs to be just that – a part of people at the University, a destination."