Poucher renovation to encourage faculty-student interaction

imageWhen SUNY Oswego’s Poucher Hall reopens in early 2006, the first thing people may notice are physical changes to the building. But it’s the changes in how people interact that will truly define the project.

The approximately $4 million in renovations marks the eastern end of the Campus Center project, which also includes the construction of the Campus Center building and renovation of Swetman Hall. Plans emphasize creating a learner-centered environment that will foster greater faculty-student interaction.

The renovated building will feature the English department on the second floor, modern languages and literatures on the first floor and the Office of Learning Services on the lower level. Classroom spaces and common areas will connect with faculty office clusters to encourage intellectual and social engagement. The close proximity to academic services in the east end of Swetman should add convenience.

The project realizes long-range planning goals from Campus Concept committee planning; the targeted January 2006 reoccupation for Poucher will fall nearly a decade after the committee first surveyed faculty to see what they would value in creating a learner-centered environment.

The Campus Concept committee “was working on creating a different kind of academic culture” at Oswego, said David King, committee chair and now a special assistant to the president for campus planning. “Part of it involves breaking down existing barriers and encouraging connections between students and students, faculty and students, even faculty and faculty.”

The complex will present opportunities for interaction in either the sizable academic commons or in smaller alcove or nook spaces, said David Hill, professor of English and a member of the Campus Concept committee.

The academic commons should be large and flexible enough to accommodate breakout sessions from classes, study groups, informal discussions or student-organization meetings.

“We seem to have been able to make our architects’ drawings reflect our ideas of what we wanted our learning to be like,” Hill said.

Tom Simmonds director of facilities design and construction, explained changes to the physical spaces will contribute to a more vibrant environment.

“One of the nice things is that we’ll be able to take these long corridors and really bring a lot of life to them by creating transparencies to incorporate outside light,” Simmonds said.

“It’s a full rehabilitation to convert an early 1960s grade-school-type building into a more modern environment to reflect a campus learning center with an interactive learning environment combining the humanities cluster and academic services,” Simmons noted. Poucher also will be the eastern terminus for a new pedestrian spine that will extend through the Campus Center to Penfield Library.

Simmonds said campus stakeholders worked with architects Ashley-McGraw and design consultants Sack and Associates, who did “a wonderful job of transforming the spaces.”

“I think everyone’s excited about what this will become,” Simmonds said.

“These spaces are going to create themselves in a sense,” Hill said. “We’ll have to see how people use it. I would think that if you have study groups forming, groups of learning coming together and faculty members invited into the discussions, that would be one indication of success.”

How it impacts student experiences will be another important yardstick. “If we look at student portfolios for the next seven, eight, nine years—what they are thinking about and how excited they are about what they’re doing—that would be another indication,” Hill said. “If we have students asking for and receiving new kinds of programming, that would be another sign of success.”

(Posted: Nov 02, 2004)