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UMSL Orientation: Social Sciences Building and Express Scripts Hall

By: Jonathan Stokes

For students taking in-person classes on North Campus, the walk through the Quad has been disrupted since the renovation of the Social Sciences Building started in September 2023. Some days have allowed for an open path for students to move freely through the Quad, but most days, people are forced to detour through SSB.

Photo by Harjas Singh

One look in a student’s university email inbox will show a handful of (probably unopened) mass messages about the ongoing beautification and modernization projects on campus. Anyone who understands the plan knows this renovation is a huge deal for UMSL and Missouri.  

Transform UMSL officially kicked off in 2022 and with North Campus as a primary focus, the on-campus experience shifts daily. The renovation of North Campus buildings is one of the many steps to meet the project's goals.

The SSB project is currently focusing on building a new elevator which is a dire need for the facility, as the only existing elevator is in the soon-to-be-demolished SSB Tower. With hopes of offering more open spaces on campus, the SSB elevator project is projected to be completed by the end of Spring 2024. The rest of the SSB project includes an upcoming renovation and expansion that will take up the space once held by the tower.

Transform UMSL was made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which provided $60 million in capital funding. Alongside private donations, roughly $100 million is being invested in the modernization of the campus. The North Campus project is expected to be completed by the end of 2026. The project hopes to group academic spaces including support services, for optimal synergy between programs. During construction, the flexibility of students and staff is paramount to maintaining a positive experience while on an evolving campus.  

One good thing about walking around a direct path to class is exploring buildings that otherwise would be ignored.

Photo by Jonathan Stokes

The Social Sciences building is the home base for economics and social work majors, which is made clear on the main floor as students constantly flow in and out of the Mathematics and Writing Academic Center. Located in SSB 222, students can get help with math coursework and have a spacious, quiet room to work on anything they please. Assistance with math work is available throughout the week and on Sunday evenings. The academic co-working space is typically occupied throughout the day and is open to walk-in appointments on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The fourth floor also offers tutoring services in the Sharon G. Levin Economics Resource Center. The resource center is a student computer lab specifically for economics majors. The tutors are available for all levels with an intended focus on 1000-level courses.

Photo by Jonathan Stokes

The third floor has an eye-catching map of St. Louis with iconic local businesses and MetroLink stops highlighted for anyone looking for an adventure around town. Next to the map is the International Studies and Programs office, also known as UMSL Global. UMSL Global supports international students from all over the world, including countries like Bhutan, Taiwan and Slovakia. The department also manages the study abroad programs that take students from St. Louis to Spain, Japan, Greece, Germany, Ireland and France.

Down the hall, there is a lounge that hosts events throughout the semester and is open for academic and recreational use on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Around the corner from the main office is SSB 301, which houses the UMSL Passport Application Acceptance Facility. The services available are the same as the local post office without the long waits and awkward lobby conversations with neighbors. The only requirement to utilize these services is a scheduled appointment which can be made online. United States citizens of all ages, Triton or not, are welcome to utilize the service. 

At the opposite end of the hall from the office is a gutted classroom that will eventually be where the new elevator doors will open. Right now, the mostly boarded-up vacant classroom has an eerie liminal quality that is shared by several spaces that are in transitional phases.

Photo by Jonathan Stokes

The first floor is far less exciting than the rest of the building. However, it does have an auditorium and an additional computer lab. The computer lab in SSB 103 is currently available to students every day. 

Photo by Harjas Singh

There is a connecting hallway between SSB and Express Scripts Hall, which is home to the math and computer science programs. It should go without saying that most rooms in the Express Scripts Hall are high-tech classrooms and/or computer labs. Wandering students will have less access to the rooms in ESH due to the equipment.

Photo by Jonathan Stokes

Navigating the building without a reason is a dull experience. Besides the beautiful artwork and interesting design choices, there isn’t much to see in ESH. Well, there isn’t much to see until you discover the absolute goldmine on the second floor.

Photo by Jonathan Stokes

The second floor of Express Scripts Hall is a computer technology museum! The museum is named Grace’s Place after Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, who helped write the first computer manual and discovered the first computer bug, among other groundbreaking achievements in computer science. Grace’s Place is filled with artifacts tracing the evolution of computer technology from its most primitive state to now. Deconstructed computer parts add visual interest to each display as visitors learn about technology’s earliest innovators and how crucial their work has been for the progress of civilization. 

Photos by Jonathan Stokes

The museum emphasizes gradual growth through focused study, trial and error. The displays in Grace’s Place reinforced respect for those who’ve trusted the process. Those people trusted the process so much that this article was able to be written using a keyboard instead of pen and paper. That amount of foresight and especially patience, is fundamental for people making and experiencing major shifts. Maybe that’s something to remember and reference through this wild journey called life. It may also help make inconvenient detours caused by construction a smidge less annoying. Maybe.


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