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Education Building provides high-tech amenities, collaborative space

Today I want to introduce you to perhaps the most significant addition to our campus this semester - our new Education Building, which opened for classes in January.

With five floors and 120,000 square feet, the building has provided a much-needed technological upgrade for professors and students in Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education. It also doubles as an inviting beacon to those approaching the university from Hampton Boulevard.

To get the best sense of the benefits the $32 million facility offers, listen to the people who use it every day.

Jane Bray, the dean of the Darden College of Education, appreciates "lots and lots of space for collaboration" throughout the building, allowing students to brainstorm and study together. Each floor has multiple areas for them to sit down and share ideas. In the old education building, the only place students could gather was in hallways or stairwells.

The building encourages greater interaction among faculty members, too. Their offices were scattered throughout the old Education Building, which opened nearly 50 years ago.

"The new building has brought programs and departments back into physical proximity with each other," says Steve Myran, an associate professor of educational foundations and leadership. And "it's a pleasure to be in a slightly bigger office," he says. "You can have a couple of students and colleagues in your office without feeling cramped."

The technological changes are also impressive. Gone are the overhead projectors. Every classroom has videoconferencing capabilities. For Professor Myran, "you can be at a conference table with the group now, instead of going up to the podium where the computer was. It lends itself to more collaboration and less of a 'sage on the stage' running the meeting."

Amy Kurfist, a doctoral student in higher education administration, likes the fact that every classroom provides the ability to connect wirelessly. "Everything is crisp, modern, well set-up and works, which is a big deal."

With the modern technology, Petros Katsioloudis, chairman of the Department of STEM Education and Professional Studies, can now teach students how to use a metal lathe in a laboratory while they watch in an adjacent classroom. Before, students would have to accompany him in groups of two or three. Professor Katsioloudis' students - our nation's future STEM teachers - enjoy other state-of-the-art amenities, including, for the first time, a room devoted to welding.

The building also features a two-story-high multipurpose auditorium and a resource room dedicated to advising - both on the ground floor - and a "learning commons," which will be equipped with 30 computers, on the third floor. Already, we have invited high school counselors to bring students to the building to show them what Old Dominion can offer them.

Our society needs talented teachers, and they need to be trained in the most up-to-date facilities. Our new Education Building allows us to do that.

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