June 10, 2006

SIU classroom upgrades receive national honors

by Tom Woolf

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale's $4 million classroom upgrade project is drawing rave reviews nationally, says SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler.

Wendler told members of the SIU Board of Trustees today (Thursday, June 10) that the new classroom facilities are winners in a national contest that included entries from the corporate world.

Newly renovated and retooled auditoriums in Lawson Hall captured second place in an annual competition sponsored by Presentations magazine, a monthly publication with 75,000 subscribers."Our students and faculty now enjoy facilities that are on the cutting edge and enhance and expand the lecture and learning experience," Wendler said.

Here's how the May issue introduces the winners of "Best Presentation Rooms": "Our annual contest to determine the finest presentation facilities of the year attracts entries from all over the world. The winners represent the finest achievements of 2003 in architectural design and technical sophistication. Whether it's a boardroom, classroom or training facility, or auditorium, these deserving projects offer an inspiring glimpse at the state of the art in presentation rooms."

Lawson Hall, which was a state-of-the-art technology center when it opened in 1967, won second place in the auditoriums category. The Cleveland Clinic's MBNA Auditorium captured the top spot in the category, while third place went to General Mills' Corporate Auditorium in Minneapolis.

Wendler announced plans for the two-year project in September 2002. Improvements began in summer 2003, featuring infrastructure, technology, equipment and aesthetic upgrades for classrooms and auditoriums throughout campus.

Offering high-quality classrooms, laboratories and studios is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

"Many people contributed to these essential improvements and it is terrific to see their efforts recognized," Wendler said.

All 10 of Lawson Hall's auditoriums received significant technology upgrades last year, as did 11 other large auditoriums across campus. Five Lawson auditoriums received furniture, flooring and aesthetic upgrades last year, and similar improvements to the remaining five auditoriums are under way this summer. In addition, two of the auditoriums are receiving improvements based on Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. All of the Lawson Hall facilities will be ready for the fall semester. Work also is continuing on 22 other classrooms across campus, including installation of new technology, aesthetic improvements and new furniture.

"When you look at the resources of the other competitors compared to what we had, we did quite well," said Philip S. Gatton, director of SIUC's Plant and Service Operations. "We're pretty excited about the award."

Entries were judged in three key areas: presentation technology, suitability to task and aesthetics.

Susan Logue, associate dean for support services in Library Affairs, is a member of a broad-based campus group facilitating the infusion of technology across campus. Logue also worked with staff in Instructional Support Services, Physical Plant and Audio Visual Services to ensure proper installation and functionality of equipment.

"The greatest challenge has been selecting the best technology and functionality to suit a broad user base across campus," Logue said. "Different instructors have different teaching styles, and it is important to make sure you don't disenfranchise some of them to get particular functionality for others. Design engineers helped out with that quite a bit. Our goal is to not reduce functionality, but to incorporate higher-end technology for those who needed it."

The improvements offer faculty members a variety of options.

"They now have very high resolution projectors, with the ability to display images from any computer program, DVDs or videos, display information from the Internet, use a document camera and use the SmartBoard technology," Logue said.

SmartBoard technology allows an instructor to display any electronic object, annotate it and save it to a file. It has a touch-sensitive screen so an instructor can use a chalkboard/whiteboard, or they can display a PowerPoint presentation. All can then be saved on the spot and then e-mailed to students or colleagues. Logue noted that Lawson Hall has dual projection functionality, so faculty members can show a video or DVD on one screen and write notes on another.