HAMILTON — Benton Hall, the newest building at 200-year-old Colgate University, is designed to help students bridge the gap between college and the great beyond, whether that means fellowships, internships, graduate school or careers.

The $16.4 million, 17,000 square-foot building houses the center for career services, the office of national fellowships and scholarships and the Thought Into Action entrepreneurship program, as well as four classrooms. One side of the building opens to the academic quad, providing easy access to students who used to have to trudge across campus to the school’s third oldest building for career advice.

A liberal arts education prepares students to do anything, which is great, but also can be overwhelming, said Teresa Olsen, assistant vice president of institutional advancement and director of career services. The programs in Benton Hall – named for donor and alumnus Daniel Benton, Class of 1980 – help them to narrow down those choices, she said.

“They have a lot of questions about what’s next,” Olsen said.

The building also includes space for 26 student interns to work. Those interns appreciate the bigger, better equipped space that includes a kitchen.

“I kind of live here now,” said senior Jocelyne Andrade.

Andrade noted that a lot of curious students are walking in now and that traffic is leading to more engagement. But students aren’t the only ones who like the new space; professors want to teach their classes in Benton Hall, she said.

The stone building was designed to fit into Colgate’s prevailing architectural style with granite floors, wood paneling and, in some spaces, coffered ceilings. But it also is sustainable – the college is hoping for platinum certification – inclusive with handicapped accessibility and all-gendered bathrooms – and thoroughly wired with the latest technology to connect students, parents, alumni, recruiters, employers, foundations and faculty whether they’re on the campus or checking in from points around the globe.

And it reflects physically the important place the building’s services hold within the university, Olsen said. Last year, career services engaged with about 85 percent of the university’s approximately 3,000 students, she said.

Career services has gone through a huge evolution in scope, scale and engagement in the 12 years since Olsen joined the staff, she said. Employers and graduate schools now want to see students finish college with two kinds of professional experience, whether that means research, internships or long-term community service, to make sure that they’ve been exposed to the field and that they have hands-on experience as well as classroom knowledge, she said.

“This was really the last component of setting us up for what we need to do to launch us into what’s next,” Olsen said.

 Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).