Hobart and William Smith recently received a $150,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust to reconfigure and refurbish two classrooms in Rosenberg and Gulick Halls into flexible learning spaces that now foster the integration of pedagogy and technology in the natural sciences. The renovations are congruent with the outcomes of a nearly two year comprehensive review and revision of the HWS curriculum, which adopts “Explore, Collaborate, Act” as an animating principle for common and engaged discourse.
“As we begin implementation of the revised curriculum, we are grateful for the George I. Alden Trust which has allowed the Colleges to reimagine and transform our teaching practices,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “The support of the Alden Trust has been critical as we seek new ways to engage students in challenging coursework and research, and as we honor our commitment to provide students with a 21st century learning environment.”
Gulick Hall, originally constructed in 1951 and last renovated in 1991, and Rosenberg Hall, originally constructed in 1994, were designed to accommodate a traditional model of didactic teaching and passive learning that characterized the academic experience of previous generations of faculty and students. With the funds, the Colleges have been able to address several inadequacies of two classrooms in the spaces.
“With the generosity of the Alden Trust we have been fortunate to transform two of our classrooms on campus into state of the art teaching spaces,” says Associate Provost and Associate Professor of Chemistry Christine R. de Denus. “They are equipped with flexible furnishings that allow faculty to teach using a variety of different pedagogical methods which lead to truly transformative learning experiences for our students.”
With renovations complete by the start of the 2015 academic year, the classrooms are now being used by the science departments – biology, chemistry, geoscience, math/computer science, psychology and physics – and secondarily by other departments across campus. Students have extended access to the new classrooms when classes are not in session, during the evening, and on weekends. This allows them to work on group projects, use discipline-specific institutional software, process and analyze lab data, and/or experiment with new technology.
Renovations included creating two classrooms out of Gulick 208. Gulick 208A now seats 32 students and has iMacs for 30 installed, while Gulick 208B accommodates 16 students and flexible furnishings that can be moved to form a seminar table, smaller pods of tables, or rows as desired by the faculty and students. Rosenberg 009 now accommodates 30 students, each with their own PC desktop, allowing the Colleges to explore alternative teaching strategies. The spaces are furnished with appropriate seating and work surfaces to allow for easy re-configuration, effective use of white boards and peer-to-peer communication. Additionally, the Colleges have purchased discipline-specific software packages such as Gaussian (molecular modeling software), Stata, SuperLab, IDL and SIMION (data analysis software), as well as related electronic equipment necessary to support contemporary science pedagogy.
The new spaces are a result of a two-year collaborative planning process that engaged each science department to re-imagine teaching and learning spaces. After individual discussions within each department, the science chairs worked closely with de Denus to examine various space options across campus; ultimately the group designed an approach that would address the needs of multiple classes and various instructors.
Established in 1912, the George I. Alden Trust was created for the general purpose of “the maintenance of some charitable or philanthropic enterprises” with particular expressed interest in “the promotion of education in schools, colleges, or other educational institutions.” The Trustees give priority to higher education in support of independent undergraduate education, and focus their grant making on capital needs. They support institutions that demonstrate a combination of educational excellence and exciting programming, and support proposals that they feel will contribute significantly to the intellectual growth of students and that will enhance an institution’s mission.