Focused discussions to address Learning Commons concerns

Vincent Schultz, Assistant A&E Editor

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Starting today, Sister Anne Munley, IHM, Ph.D., president of Marywood, will host a series of focused discussions on the Learning Commons for members of the faculty, as well as professional and support staff. The sessions come a little more than a month after the ceremonial ground breaking marked the official start of the project.

The first discussion for faculty will be held on Monday, Nov. 25 in the McGowan Community Room in the Swartz Center for Spiritual Life in two separate sessions. The first session will occur from 8-10 a.m., while the second is to be held between 1-3 p.m. in order to accommodate as many schedules as possible.

According to Library Director David Schappert, the discussions are an attempt to allow faculty to ask questions about the project and alleviate concerns. He admitted that since the tragic passing of his wife, Cathy Schappert, who was the former director of Library Services, on March 7, 2012, communication with faculty about the project began to fall apart.

“There was abundance of time in between getting the preliminary plans done and the construction to have a lot more communication than occurred.” Schappert said. “Things happened, but important things didn’t happen and some of that was talking more broadly with the faculty about [the project].”

Schappert will be on hand to answer faculty questions during the focused discussion sessions.

“This [session] is really meant to be a conversation, rather than talking at [faculty],” he said.

Since launching the centennial campaign ”A Bold Heart,” Marywood University has sought to raise $75 million, most which will support the upcoming Learning Commons construction. The goal is to demolish the current library and rebuild an open and interactive Learning Commons in order to accommodate the wide range student needs.

The Learning Commons ground breaking occurred Oct. 18 and marked the beginning of the Common’s project, which is set to be completed in 2015 to coincide with the University’s centennial.

According to Schappert, the new Learning Commons will feature more collaborative space for group study.

“The biggest change for the building is going to be…much more open space, collaborative space, better group study space, better integration with the café, and other things that will pull students into the building,” said Schappert.

While some faculty said they believe the Learning Commons is a productive and promising project for the Marywood community, the lack of communication to faculty around campus has left others indecisive.

“We need to invest money in buildings or spaces where they will attract students so they want to come to Marywood.” said Christine Fryer, assistant professor of education. “When [students] are on tours, they’ll see themselves in that building and picture themselves hanging out there with their friends, doing group projects, or just getting a coffee after class. I think it can take on a whole new dimension.”

Dr. Laurie McMillan, associate professor of English, said that communication throughout the decision-making process could have been better.

“I think that a lot of time and energy was put into making decisions about the Learning Commons, but not all of the reasons for the decisions have been communicated to the campus community.”

McMillan added that she’s not sure where she stands on the new construction.

“I don’t know all of the information about the Learning Commons yet, so I don’t know if I agree with all of the decisions made or not.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Alan Levine, said he hopes to alleviate such faculty confusion in the focused discussion sessions.

“[The purpose of the discussions] is to have an exchange which will lead to a greater understanding of the Learning Commons and of its positive impact on the entire University community,” he said. “I think that if you put folks together in the same room and allow for a dialogue to take place, then I think everyone’s thoughts and opinions will be heard.”

Additional sessions for professional and support staff will take place on Wednesday, December 4 in the Latour Room, Nazareth Hall. Professional staff will meet at 10:30 a.m. and support staff will meet at 1 p.m.

Sr. Anne declined to comment on the discussions until after they take place.

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