Hi, I’m Katie Market and welcome to
another edition of Boiler Bytes. The show that features fascinating stories from
Purdue University. Today I’m standing on the third floor of the newest building
on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. At a 164,000 square
feet and a cost of 79 million dollars the Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active
Learning Center is much more than just another campus building. When its doors
finally swung open in August of 2017 not only did it mark the completion of
a project that was a decade in the making but it also instantly transformed
the campus in ways that nobody could envision. We’re heralding the arrival of
an all new era for this campus. It’s like someone turned a switch and
the Wilmeth Active Learning Center is now the new hub of the campus. The attributes that the Wilmeth Active Learning Center brings to Purdue is totally unique. The marrying of library and classroom spaces has never been tried before. So it used to be like you went to your classroom, and then you went to the library, and then you went home. It sort of blurs those lines. So you study in the space … then it is your classroom. Your classroom is in it, but then maybe you hang out with your fellow students or your professor after class, and you know the learning continues. The vision was to try to integrate learning in a lot of different environments. So learning within the classroom and learning beyond the classroom. It is unique in that it’s
a number of classrooms in one location and again unique because it’s a
consolidated Engineering and Science Library. There were six libraries that
were consolidated in this space. Most of our information resources available
digitally has allowed us to free up and control less of the space and therefore
we could integrate the library and classroom building. There are 27
classrooms ranging in size from as small as 50 to as large as 300. Now the
important part to remember this is that each one of these rooms
is designed to be active learning. The active learning classrooms are designed for students to be able to move around in the classroom. Students are all
engaged in some sort of action, right. They’re not sort of sitting passively
listening to a lecture. Five minutes the instructor’s talking, giving directions, or introducing a concept And they can turn around, form a small group, talk about it, discuss. This gives them an opportunity to engage with
their fellow students and learn from their fellow students as well. Students
can learn more when they’re sort of more engaged in the learning process.
I think active learning actually prepares students better for the work
and the kinds of things that they are going to want to be doing after they
leave the university. This building, with the 27 classrooms has
really enabled a lot more people to do this kind of work. Faculty have said that it is enabled them to teach in ways they’ve been wanting to for a long time. Students have affirmed how much they appreciate and value the active, the collaborative, the project-based learning that this space
is so well suited to. So the building is located on the site of the old power
plant. It was built in 1924. It was a iconic building. It sat in the middle of campus, but the power plant was decommissioned in the late eighties and
sat derelict almost for 30 years. And when I went to the Provost 12 years ago and pointed out the window towards the old power plant and said that’s where we
need to build a combined science engineering library right in the center
of campus. She said a classroom building has to go there. And I said okay
classroom library building. We started planning, I believe it was in 2012. We brought in a consultant to work with us. She was an anthropologist. She brought
anthropological methodologies to assess what students wanted or what they needed
in the spaces. We tried to get a lot of input from students about what was important to them. Natural light. That’s representative of one of the areas that they said we want. We want to be able to see outside. We want see that we’re at Purdue. The other thing that they said was we
want to see books. Even in the electronic age they still enjoy feeling like
they’re surrounded by knowledge. We’ve tried to think about all the different
ways that students work with each other or work by themselves. In the Reading Room we have sort of a formal place for students that want to focus and not have
a lot of distractions. You can expereince the beauty of this reading room as well as being outside of it because you can look down into it. It’s a unique building
also in that we have this cafe in the first level. Au Bon Pain has a wonderful
reputation for serving good, wholesome food and it’s a big success. We have a computer lab that is loaded with different kinds of visualization tools
that aren’t available elsewhere on campus. So that’s a place where students
can come in an experiment. We also can teach classes and invite instructors
from all over campus who want to teach various tools to students. One of the elements that we wanted to try to save was the impact of the old power plant.
Before the building was demolished we went in and looked at what could we take
out of this building that would typify its role and then reinstall them in
exhibits throughout the building. You can dial up an audio tour. The audio
tour will take you through the building and take you through the different
exhibits. And so our goal was not only are the students participating in active
learning. Anyone who comes into this building they can become an active
participant in learning. One mural that’s by the grand staircase is a map of the
campus from about the time period that the Wilmeths were here on campus. The
building is named after two brothers Thomas and Harvey Wilmeth. Thomas
graduated from Purdue in 1935. Harvey graduate in 1940. They formed a company
called Scot Industries. Since the 1940s it has been growing and growing and has
become very successful. Their Purdue education was essential in providing the
foundation for their later work. I know they would both be pleased and proud of
the Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center It’s a building that was
designed for the future. When I look around this building I’m really excited.
We’re kind of leading the path in this conversation about active learning and
higher education. I think this building has the potential for changing how
students learn at a university setting. This structure has eclipsed anything
else that I know of on this campus in terms at least of sudden impact and I
believe enduring impact on the lives of Boilermakers. The whole area in front of
the building, the building itself has created all new life to the center of
campus and that’s what I think is particularly exciting. The Wilmuth Active Learning Center is a
student-centered facility that is open 24 hours a day seven days a week.
And at any one time the building can hold up to four thousand students in the
combined classroom and library spaces. That wraps up another episode of Boiler
Bytes. To view additional Boiler Bytes segments check us out online at www.boilerbytes.com See you next time.