At the tail end of last semester, construction began in and around Belknap Hall. For commuters and faculty, it was seen as a nuisance for taking up valuable parking spaces. For everyone else, its purpose was truly a mystery.
Belknap Hall has been left with a vacant space since the opening of the Gustafson Center gave Admissions a new home. That space will soon be taken over by a cutting-edge, renovated School of Education.
“When I came here three years ago the School of Education was in two places. We were squished into a corner of Belknap and we had the bottom floor of [Robert] Frost Hall,” said Ray McNulty, Dean of the SNHU School of Education. “We had no real place that students could call ‘The School of Education’… We were like nomads.”
The new space will take many of the design cues evident in SNHU’s most recent projects like the Green Center and the Gustafson Center. Students will find wide open spaces to encourage students to spend time together.
“We didn’t have a place for education students to congregate. Schools in the past were designed with a lot of classrooms and halls so now we get to open it up a bit and have places where people can collaborate,” said McNulty.
Many of the walls between offices were taken down to create large classrooms. Also featured on the floor plan is a patio facing Robert Frost Hall, a coffee-bar kitchenette, conference rooms, and even a virtual reality room.
“If we’re going to educate our students for the future we have to give them the exposure to value technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence,” said McNulty.
McNulty has been working with Game Design professors Ed Brillant and Randall Case to develop new programs. Case has designed a course to introduce students to gaming as a learning tool.
“We want to be seen as cutting-edge and innovative in the world of education. We don’t want to be seen as ‘the little brick schoolhouse’… SNHU has a brand and we’re always trying to figure out what’s next.”
Education students have gotten a chance to preview the floor plans. Hannah Linquata, a third-year education student, said “I’m excited that Belknap will have new resources for me to utilize to prepare for student teaching as well as getting a job in the education field.”
McNulty has had a strong input in the design of the school. Openness is encouraged not only in the work spaces, but in those of faculty as well. Faculty offices are designed with large glass windows so students can feel more comfortable dropping in on their instructors, and even the Dean himself.
“I think the Dean should be someone that people can see and is in the open. I have a conference room if I need to hide and hold meetings, but I want people to feel that if the Dean is in his office students can come in,” said McNulty.
The renovations are expected to be complete in late December 2017, just in time for a grand opening in Spring semester of 2018.