By Sara Clifton
The oldest building on campus at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Ambrose Hall, has three new coffee-shop inspired rooms. The rooms on the second floor — 220, 228 and 233 — were updated over winter break.
Mike Poster, vice president for finance, said it was easier to do the renovation now than wait until summer when trying to make housing arrangements for the fall.
The new rooms boast fresh paint, new carpet and an assortment of seating options. University officials worked with the teachers who use the rooms most. Poster said many of the teachers mentioned they like to do small-group work in their classes. The rooms are now set up to reflect that.
Where rows of desks and chairs once took up space, there are now new options. Poster said officials were looking to invigorate some of the older spaces, making them better for the students and faculty.
“We tried not to change the capacity of the rooms,” Poster said, “just really the furniture in them and the way things are oriented.”
Inspiration came from an interior design firm and dealer for Herman Miller furniture, which wanted to help improve the learning environment, not just sell furniture. “That really intrigued us,” Poster said. Consultants listened to the teachers who worked in the classrooms to develop recommendations for what would work best.
Poster said costs were around $50,000. He has already spoken with other deans to make plans for more changes around campus. “We’d like to pick three more classrooms for next year and next year’s fiscal budget,” Poster said. Feedback has been very positive, with a few tweaks made, he added.
Keri Manning, assistant professor of history, loves the new classrooms.
“The rooms are very versatile. The chairs are lightweight, as are the tables. We now have more room to move in and it is easier to have the class break up into small groups, but we also have the option of making the desks into regular rows if needed.
“I like to put my students into a square shape seating arrangement, and then we can all see one another. With this new arrangement, it makes it harder for students to sit in the back, hide and be disconnected from the class. It is also easier for me to see what is going on,” she said. “Teachers have been very intrigued with this new furniture, to see how the classes will work out. The experience has been very positive for me.”
Poster said some of the faculty indicated there wasn’t much of an issue getting classes scheduled in these rooms. “Now they think there will be an issue since they’re so nice. But that’s a good problem to have.”
(Sara Clifton is editor in chief of The Buzz, St. Ambrose University’s student newspaper).