Interim Provost Ian Newbould reflected on the “red-letter day” for the University of Mary Washington as it is taking steps towards the digital future.
Newbould welcomed the crowd that gathered at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 to the groundbreaking of the Convergence Center.
Newbould introduced Nina Mikhalevsky, philosophy professor and member of the Convergence Center Building Committee, who spoke on how the convergence center “represents a vision” for UMW and its way of learning and teaching.
“It is a symbol of high quality and innovative teaching,” said Mikhalevsky.
She described the new center as an “architecture for social relations,” and pointed out that, for students today, technology is the norm; and that they live in a “digital ecosystem.” Due to this, they are not only learning when they are in the classroom, but through the technology they use daily and even hourly.
“We want them to imagine,” said Mikhalevsky about UMW students.
The resources that will be available in the convergence center will enhance student learning, according to Mikhalevsky.
There will be collaborative and interactive resources for students, such as self-service multi-media editing rooms, sophisticated equipment and computer workstations, according to John Morello, the Convergence Center Committee chair.
However, Mikhalevsky spoke strongly to the crowd about one point she wanted understood.
“Its value is not in technology, its value is in the people,” said Mikhalevsky. “Technology is not, and never should be, the driver.”
Judge Pamela White, rector of the Board of Visitors, also discussed how the new center reflects the values of UMW.
“It will provide yet unimagined opportunities,” said White.
White also spoke of the aesthetics of the convergence center and how it will enhance the campus.
However, junior economics major Emily Zaylor has a different opinion.
“I feel like so many of these buildings have been around that it seems out of place,” said Zaylor. “Our campus is a great size as it is now.”
According to Morello, the convergence center will be 90 to 95 percent complete by March 2014, and will be in full use fall of 2014.
The idea was collaborative from the original committee and finally became a possibility in March 2008.
“It has been a long time in germination,” said Morello.
Hanbury, Evans, Wright & Vlattas Company is the architect company hired for the construction of the convergence center.
“This is their first project at UMW,” said Morello. “They are an excellent firm, very easy to work with and excellent collaborators.”
According to Morello, the space will have student-driven collaborative spaces.
The speaking and writing centers will both be located on the fourth floor of the center for the convenience of students, according to Morello.
There will be more sophisticated equipment and several classrooms equipped with new technology, along with 24/7 quiet study, according to Morello. The building will also physically connect to the library so that students can go back and forth easily.
The building will have four floors, though one level will be below campus walk so that the center is level with the height of the library.
Spencer Atkinson, a junior psychology major, attended the groundbreaking.
“I learned a lot more about it,” said Atkinson. “ I think it is a good idea, although I don’t like how it is being built in that area; it detracts from the campus.”