Students who entered one of 13 redone rooms in the Memorial Classroom Building or the Whitten Learning Center last Tuesday saw the many changes made since last spring.
Fifty-inch plasma screens in the LC, tiered seating in Memorial and silent air conditioning vents are some of the many changes students will notice this fall.
Workers labored throughout the summer on the LC and on phase one of the updates to Memorial, putting finishing touches on the renovated rooms just days before classes began. The central bathrooms on Memorial’s first floor also received facelifts.
Mark Diaz, associate vice president for budget and planning in the provost’s office, said the next phase, which entails refurbishing the remaining 29 rooms next summer, is expected to be completed by fall 2008.
Diaz, who oversaw the project, said the renovations cost roughly $6 million, with $3.2 million spent on the LC and $3.1 spent on Memorial. He added that the renovations to the rest of Memorial are expected to cost $3 million.
Diaz, class of ’92, gave The Miami Hurricane a tour of the refurbished classrooms on Aug. 16.
All of the redone rooms feature “smart” podiums, new LCD projectors and video cameras in the ceiling-for security purposes and to broadcast lectures.
On the second floor of Memorial, the rooms were reoriented so seats face the doors and rows of desks are tiered.
As for the first floor, classrooms still face the same direction and include desks on wheels, along with chairs. The two-person tables feature a pair of electrical outlets, as is the case in the LC.
All of these and other changes came after Provost Thomas L. LeBlanc saw the current general education classrooms as “inadequate,” Diaz said.
Diaz added there was an unequal classroom experience among students in general education classes-many of which are located in the LC and Memorial-and students with most classes in newer buildings.
Rachel Deitsch, a senior marine science major, thinks the renovations are helpful.
“It’s a lot easier to write and pay attention,” she said. “Plus, there are outlets for the computers so they can be plugged in.”
Diaz said the idea for more outlets on the desks came in part from President Donna E. Shalala, who teaches a health policy class and found that there were not sufficient plugs.
Xavier Montanez, a junior and engineering student, thinks the new desks in the Memorial are an improvement.
“I like it a lot better,” he said. “Before, the desks were back-to-back, now they’re sideways. It’s much more comfortable.”
But the new desks have a downside, Diaz noted.
Capacity in all of the renovated rooms is now lower. For instance, the LC classroom capacity decreased from 270 to 170. Three rooms still have the old seating as a result, including LC 130, which is used for large introductory-level classes.
“This was the only hiccup,” Diaz said of that room and the two smaller LC classes. All three will feature the new desks after next summer once the respective class sizes are adjusted.
For the overall changes, though, Diaz said he kept in mind who would be using the spaces in the fall.
“We tried to put ourselves in the students’ shoes,” he said, also noting, “It was really time to start investing in the students.”
Lila Albizu also contributed to this report.
Greg Linch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.