SALISBURY — With broad smiles and shiny shovels, Salisbury University, its friends and supporters broke ground last week on the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons (GAC).
At 224,071 square feet, the $111.4 million facility will be the largest academic building in SU history. Home for a sorely needed new library, with it comes a reconfiguration of University classroom, research and study space in a manner that planners predict will change campus dynamics.
The GAC is a conscious attempt to transform learning at the institution — in ways which will not only impact how students and faculty interact, but, potentially, how the Lower Eastern Shore relates to the SU academic community.
“The new Academic Commons represents bold and ambitious initiatives,” said President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. “Through years of thoughtful planning, including consultation and work with nationally recognized minds in library studies, our new Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons has evolved. The building has been designed to foster synergy, community and creativity in learning. It will be transformative for our campus.”
Located on the site of the now demolished Caruthers Hall, a one-time demonstration school for elementary-aged students and later a university classroom building, the location is in the academic center of campus. Fulton Hall, home to the liberal and performing arts, is to the north; Henson Science Hall and Perdue Hall, which houses the business school, are to the south. To the west it faces the campus mall, the pedestrian nexus of the University, and to the east, Route 13, a major corridor of the Eastern Shore.
The GAC will allow SU to unite specialized academic programs — now scattered in different buildings — under one roof, adjacent to each another. They include the Writing Center, Center for Student Achievement and Math Emporium—undergraduate-focused programs to be housed on the second floor. In close proximity will be faculty and graduate student services and spaces—a new Faculty Center with meeting rooms and less formal seating designed to bring those from multiple disciplines together; a new designated space for SU’s growing population of graduate students called the Graduate Commons; and the Office for Instructional Design and Delivery, whose services include audio and recording studios for online and distance learning.
With library resources, and librarians, only steps away, students and faculty from these programs will gain a new level of support and possibility. SU is known for its commitment to undergraduate research, and that is expected to flourish in this new environment, with thoughtfully arranged smart classrooms, individual and group study spaces, multimedia labs and flexible technology configurations—student lockers are even wired for recharging mobile devices! Altogether, the building will have 405 desk and laptop computers, over 290 monitors with larger ones for group work and teaching, 18 study rooms and 12 classrooms including two seminar rooms.
The GAC is named in memory of Patricia R. Guerrieri, an SU alumna who, as a student, was known for her vivacious personality, athletic prowess and generous nature. An omnivorous reader, she instilled a love of learning in her children, and three of them attended the campus elementary school. The site of that former building is the new location of the Academic Commons. The Guerrieri Family Foundation donated $8 million for the building and library collections.
According to SU’s Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network, the construction project is expected to have a regional impact of some $238 million and support some 350 jobs in the local area. The GAC is scheduled to open in fall 2016.