A President's Reflections

Our New Buildings

Posted on September 26, 2009

I this week walked the new sidewalk from Lot 12 (across from the tennis courts) to our new academic building (some students have dubbed it “Starship LeBlanc” because of its glass and steel, though they assure me they love the building and I shouldn’t be offended). The sidewalk curves through the old Ford property, past the nearly completed Dining Hall, and ends at that lovely sunbathed patio that anchors the street end of the new building.

It feels as if we have reclaimed North River Road as our own.  This was the vision architect Deborah Berke outlined when she and her firm developed the campus Master Plan in 2004.  As she observed, we had always turned our back on the road (literally, as no building has its main entrance in its direction) when we might instead turn it into the spine that runs through the heart of campus and unites the two halves.  Filling in the wide gap that once separated the new dorms and the main campus, it feels like we have connected the dots.

Webster Hall is the piece of the overall puzzle that still feels like a disconnected island.  Elevations and wetlands made running the sidewalk straight down a problem, so we need to now spend some time working on the right solution.  In the longer term, I’d like to see the School of Business in a larger, more appropriate building somewhere in the heart of the campus.

There are other important capital projects that loom out there somewhere in our future.  A new library, though what shape and form remains an intriguing question.  The Chronicle this week had a fascinating story on Goucher’s new take on its library, part coffee shop, gathering place, learning center, and still featuring its stacks and traditional role.  Our Facilities people are working in substandard quarters and desperately need a new building.  I would love to have a facility dedicated to the arts, which have gone from merely having a toehold to flourishing in a very short time.  We will soon have a concept design for a new admission building/welcome center. 

We first have to get through these difficult economic times and work out the university’s positioning around cost and discounting and growth, getting us back on track for the financial targets set out in Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan, before we can turn to ambitious building programs and the funds they require. 

For now, I am going to find excuses to take that walk up and down the hill and relish for a bit the exciting new buildings we have completed.

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