The RCAAS has broken new ground, literally and figuratively. In Spring 2019, Rutgers began construction on a 10,000-square foot community center, which now serves as our program hub. The Community Center is a state-of-the-art building with dedicated vocational and life skills teaching areas, individual and group training rooms, a professional kitchen, recreational and common spaces, offices and meeting rooms. The Center is designed to be a welcoming environment for the entire Rutgers and local community, not just adults with autism.
A little background, a big thank you
Mel Karmazin, the former CEO of Sirius XM Radio, was a key leader in fundraising for this project, along with his daughter, Dina Karmazin Elkins, Executive Director of the Karma Foundation. Dina's son, Hunter, was diagnosed with autism at age two, which mobilized the Karmazins into philanthropic action. The new RCAAS Community Center is the first of its kind at a higher education institution in the United States. "While we wish that there were other places like this, we are hopeful that we will be able to demonstrate how beneficial this program is so that it can serve as a model. There are far too many adults out there on the autism spectrum for us not to do everything we can do to create more jobs and opportunities for them," said Mel. We couldn't agree more, and to the Karmazins, we THANK YOU for your generosity.
Location, location, location
The Community Center is located on the scenic Douglass Campus. The address is 100 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, the site of the former Corwin Residence Hall. Its convenient location offers easy access to public and University transporation networks – with the closest University bus stop a short walk away, located in front of Lipman Hall (bus map) – and is within walking distance of amenities such as the Douglass Student Center and iconic Passion Puddle.
To find Rutgers-New Brunswick bus stop locations and times, go to: https://ipo.rutgers.edu/dots/buses-nb.
The building's architectural strategy incorporates a "biophilic" design, a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. In other words, nature and natural materials such as wood and stone, were chosen with great intention and played a vital role in every detail - the pitched roof, flooring, lighting, and landscaping. Particular attention was paid to sensory impacts, such as the use of materials that facilitate noise reduction and alcoves with soft edges that allow for privacy. Another key concept incorporated into the design was "proximity without engagment." For example, in the main room, which is a perfect spot for a large social gathering or playing a game, there are a series of benches built around the perimeter. This "diner-like seating" is ideal for reading a book (leisure or text), having a one-on-one meeting, or taking a break and then choosing to rejoin an activity.
The Community Center addresses opportunities to hone three key skill areas: vocational, hands-on life, and social skills. Visitors and staff are offered a choice, and are welcome to enjoy the following key features:
- A commerical kitchen with modern applicances, sprinklers, high tops and prep tables. (Shout out to RU Dining Services for their input!)
- A game room/entertainment lounge- Think RU e-Sports and the '80s
- Large gathering lounge, with adjacent arcade games and card table
- Oversized restrooms, shower facilities, and a laundry room
- Wood-grained lockers for visitor use near the entranceway (staff have their own in a separate area)
- WiFi throughout the building
- Classrooms that allow for workshops, trainings, and varied layout configuration
- Versatile meeting, assessment, observation rooms, and offices
- A separate wing for the Intentisve Outpatient Unit (IOC), coming in 2022
- And much, much more!