Students will be welcomed back this fall with a brand new building, home to state-of-the-art technology; open, interactive classrooms; and tons of new study space.
After nearly seven years of work — from initial meetings and design through construction — the $35-million Mell Classroom Academic Building is finally a reality. Over the weekend, construction workers will be placing the final touches of paint and cleaning up ahead of classes on Monday.
The front entrance to Mell is still closed as workers finish laying concrete and sod, but will be open by Monday.
Twenty-six new classrooms, ranging in capacity from 30 students to more than 70, will be a new home for dozens of liberal arts, education, agriculture and COSAM classes.
A large, open atrium filled with natural lighting greets students.
“It’s a little breathtaking when you walk in there for the first time,” said Wiebke Kuhn, learning spaces and faculty development coordinator.
Nearly all of the new classrooms and the two 160-seat lecture halls tout floor-to-ceiling windows that Kuhn hopes will provide a professional, welcoming work environment for students.
“It’s really cool to watch people’s faces light up when they walk into the new spaces and when they see the new classrooms,” Kuhn said.
Three of the classrooms come equipped with numerous displays and projectors to allow students to collaborate. Most of the furniture is modular in all of the classrooms, as well.
“This is no longer your quasi-high school classroom,” Kuhn said. “This is where you are ready to learn and want to learn.”
The building has already been in use for nearly a week for faculty training. Kuhn said the building will be open for classes Aug. 21. Beginning on Friday, students who have classes scheduled in Mell can take orientation courses in Mell.
A primary focus in constructing the new Mell building was increasing available study space. Inside, there are more than 30 new private study rooms and even more common study space intended to supplement the existing study spaces in Ralph Brown Draughon Library.
"One of the main suggestions we heard from students was that they wanted more study space," Kuhn said. "You asked for more and now you have a whole building."
Most of the 26 classrooms will also be converted to private study rooms that students can reserve online when not in use for classes. Some of the classrooms will also be quiet study spaces.
And the new Mell building and library renovations weren't just intended to increase learning space. A new Panera Bread inside the newly renovated portion of the library is slated to open November.