Kettering University opens $ 63 million state-of-the-art Learning Commons

FLINT, MI- Walk into Kettering University, and students, faculty and staff can expect to view inside one of the most state-of-the-art buildings in the state.

On Friday, Sept. 23, Kettering University officially opened its new Learning Commons, a $ 63 million, 105,000-square-foot building designed to encourage collaboration and transform the social and academic life for students and faculty.

“We did it because it reinforces and it supports a set of behaviors and a set in kind of the educational mission of the institution,” said Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan. “And students who see the students and families who see and experience the value of that and understand it will recognize this building as being kind of the embodiment of that vision going forward.

“So the way I kind of look at this building is it’s really a statement about our commitment to who we are as an institution and the unique model of education that we have. And it’s also quite honestly, it’s also a commitment to Flint, right? ”

The building is designed with no offices or classrooms, but it instead is built as a single entity with a focus on fostering interaction and collaboration.

The construction started in February 2020, with Stantec serving as the project’s architectural firm.

The main entrance of the Learning Commons is a two-level connector that provides two ways to access the building. People can enter from the second floor of the campus center via an open-air path or from the first floor via a ground level windowed tunnel that will serve as an art gallery with seating areas throughout.

During a tour Friday morning, McMahan said the building is also designed so people can stand on one side and see through to the other side without any obstruction.

“One of the challenges for us was to make the case to our alumni to support this. We hadn’t developed a strong culture of philanthropy, as an institution, to make the case to pay it forward. And we needed them to pay it forward, ”he said. “And because our students needed them to help support this, this is an expensive form of education to deliver because it’s kind of like building a house where you only have kitchens and bathrooms, right. And, you know, everything. Everything is expensive in an engineering school, the laboratories, the classrooms, the technology. And so we needed that philanthropy, we needed that support. “

Inside the Learning Commons will have a food court with a range of options, a Detroit-based Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, a 200-seat auditorium theater, and a hotel suite for visiting professors and guests to stay.

The Boldly Forward Capital Campaign raised over $ 150 million dollars, the most successful fundraising effort in Kettering history.

The Learning Commons furniture has Bernhardt Becca sofas inside, which were designed by Flint native Terry Crews, host of NBC’s reality competition America’s Got Talent.

Hemanth Tadepalli, a computer science major in his senior year, also provides tours around campus to incoming students.

He is excited about the Learning Commons.

“This day is a day we all have been waiting for,” Tadepalli said. “I will be using this building tremendously for research purposes, meeting professors and students as well.”

Diane Peters, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, is looking forward to more interaction with students.

“This building is a tremendous opportunity to have a less threatening place than the office,” Peters said. “Coming here and being able to meet with students, it’s a lot more casual. We feel more accessible here. I think that’s part of it. “

Dina Mein, the university’s librarian, will run an all-digital library, which will be a new thing for her, but also an exciting adventure.

“Me and my team are used to working in a regular library setting here,” Mein said, who has worked at Kettering since 2018. “So now, we’ve got over a million electronic books. We can serve Kettering students, staff and faculty no matter where they are in the world. So it brings us flexibility anywhere, anytime, 24/7. “

The digital library makes it easier for students and staff to find what they are looking for, which makes Mein’s job a little more challenging.

“They now come to us with the really hard questions,” she said. “But it’s exciting.”

Working at Kettering for almost five years as the director of the academic success center, Samantha Klaskow said the Learning Commons is an opportunity to “enhance communication ties” with everyone involved.

“It creates more natural interactions that we haven’t been able to have as easily in the space we’ve had in the past,” she said. “And I think it shows how innovative Kettering is. When I first got here, I knew this place is exactly where I want to be because it’s so collaborative, exciting and alive. Our model is what every journal and higher education talks about. Kettering is already there. “

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