The Learning Commons is the signature element of the college’s master plan. The project calls for a complete transformation and modernization of the existing library. It establishes the heart of campus, creates a hub of activity, and demonstrates the college’s commitment to academic excellence.
A design blending Alma’s classic red brick with glass allows people to see in and out of the facility and helps to demonstrate that campus is vibrant and bustling with activity. Campus community members and visitors will find numerous reasons to visit the three strategically organized levels of the Learning Commons.
Alma College has an unprecedented opportunity to transform one of its most outdated facilities into a distinctive symbol of academic excellence that enriches campus and the student experience:
- The last major classroom facility constructed at Alma College was the Swanson Academic Center. It opened in 1972, nearly 50 years ago. The needs of students and faculty have evolved dramatically since that time.
- Teaching and learning are now more team-oriented and technology-driven, and academic spaces must be flexible and facilitate interdisciplinary work. Competitive institutions are adapting to today’s best practices in teaching and learning.
- The current library lacks presence and utility and requires significant investment. It is dark at night and opaque during the day, and students and visitors alike cannot see in or out of the facility. The building faces inward instead of toward the broader community. It features a confusing entry sequence, and interior spaces are difficult for students, faculty, and staff to navigate and fully utilize.
- A recent survey of students and young graduates revealed that studying, collaborating, teaching, socializing, and other core campus activities tend to occur in silos. Students often view their own rooms, select small houses, and the academic buildings housing their majors as their only go-to destinations on campus. In the modern era of technology and convenience, students no longer need to leave their rooms to conduct research, study, or socialize.
- Members of the campus community need engaging and compelling spaces that facilitate interaction, collaboration, and community building. The college has an opportunity to establish a new center of gravity for campus activity that provides versatile, inviting places in which students, faculty, and staff can learn, socialize, dine, collaborate, and live.
- The recent completion of numerous facilities projects on Alma’s campus conveys that the college values residential, dining, athletic, and Greek life facilities. While true, Alma must also clearly signal its commitment to academic excellence.
- Renovating the current library into a bold, modern, and engaging Learning Commons will transform a major competitive disadvantage of the college into a distinctive sign of academic strength that supports and facilitates Alma’s uniquely personalized and engaging educational approach.
The Learning Commons will invigorate Alma’s mission by providing students, faculty, and staff with a desirable, iconic place to socialize, study, collaborate, learn, create, and live.