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Sense of Place

School of Education at The College of William & Mary

More space, and all under one roof
University Business, Jul 2010
Students had no place to congregate before. Now, lounges such as the one above the atrium area (below) offer ample opportunity.

Education students at The College of William & Mary (Va.) have a new building just for them?seven years in the making and the first time in 20 years that all of the school's people and programs will be housed together.

  • FUNCTION: The new School of Education building features several centers and institutes, a tiered high-tech classroom, a board room, a professional development center, and a Java City cafe run by Aramark, as well as faculty offices and additional classrooms.
  • PROBLEM: The school had completely outgrown its 26,000 square feet within Jones Hall. Parts of the department could be found in a few campus buildings and in off-campus commercial office space. Some faculty offices housed six to eight people. "Our internationally recognized Center for Gifted Education was about a half-mile away, and our Historic Triangle Substance Abuse Coalition was probably five miles away. Students and faculty would rarely be out there," says Virginia McLaughlin, dean, adding that there were probably missed opportunities because of the distance between faculty and staff and the various centers. Without its own building, she adds, the school also "lacked visibility and identity." Still, "faculty had been amazingly productive," she says.
  • SOLUTION: A 22-acre hospital site sat adjacent to campus. After building a new complex elsewhere, hospital officials gifted half the land's value, $7.4 million, to William & Mary, so the college could purchase it. A hospital reuse committee decided that the education school could make the best use of the property, if renovated, McLaughlin explains. But "when the architects and engineers got behind the walls, it was far more complicated to convert a hospital into an academic building than we had thought." An evaluation determined that tearing down the hospital and starting over would be more cost effective than a renovation. A functional space analysis concluded the school "needed about 100,000 square feet of space to do what we were doing in 2004," she says. Plans ballooned to 135,000 square feet, and then were pared down to about 113,000. "I think we did a pretty good job fitting in as much as we could," she adds.

Among the new facility's features are a student lounge, lockers, and larger faculty offices with pods for grad students in open areas. The setup "will encourage collaborative work. That's the way we do business in education," says McLaughlin. "Having people together is just a spark of energy and new ideas that we've not enjoyed in the past." In addition, a professional development center will serve more than 20,000 educators annually. The more-public spaces, such as the Literacy for Life program, are located in the building's more accessible areas. "The more we can expand our outreach to touch more people, the more impact we're having as a public university," McLaughlin says of the many community-oriented programs that will bring people of all ages to the building regularly. Not to mention, "having a professional, impressive facility" will help in continuing to attract and retain students, she explains. "The size and nature of that facility can be a strong statement about how education is valued."

  • COST: $48 million
  • OCCUPANCY: Began in mid-May; the full building will be open by fall.
  • ARCHITECT: Sasaki Associates