Big Ideas Grant Means Big Changes for Armstrong and Morris Halls

Armstrong and Morris Halls are about to receive their first classroom renovations in recent memory—thanks to a Big Ideas grant awarded by Minnesota State Mankato President Richard Davenport.

Armstrong and Morris Hall with studentsIn February, President Davenport announced that 31 proposals had been selected to receive more than $4 million in campus funding that had been designated to support “innovative ideas proposed for advancing the mission, vision and strategic plan” of the University. The Armstrong-Morris project, led in large part by Kimberly Greer, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, received $582,469.

“The renovations are pretty significant and extensive,” Greer says. “It’s going to look a lot different, especially for students who have been here a year or two. We’re talking about seven classrooms and a department office with the idea of different departments using them to make the rooms more responsive to 21st century learning.”

Greer, who was named Dean last July, lauded the team effort in launching the project.

“There have been a lot of faculty members involved in the design, everything from what kinds of tables and chairs we need to computers,” she says. “They came up with great ideas—for instance, finding areas in Armstrong that are more conducive to students to have a place to sit before class. These are heavy traffic areas on campus; it’s a very ambitious project, but a good one for both students and faculty.”

As part of the renovations, which is being completed by Mankato-based Brunton Architects, the Geography department will move from the basement of Armstrong into Morris Hall; the Urban Studies, Corrections, Law Enforcement and History departments will also be affected.

Morris Hall in summer, with flowers out front“We hope these changes in the classroom will reflect less of a lecture (setting) and an increase in interaction among the students,” Greer says. “It’s exciting to be able to build classrooms that meet the needs of the students and the faculty that will be using them.”

The renovations were initially scheduled to commence this summer but were postponed so that heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements could take place. Construction is expected to start at the end of the spring 2013 semester with hopes of completion by the time the fall 2013 semester begins.

Greer says her departments will need to tweak their summer class schedule during the construction. Some classes will be offered strictly online; others will have to be moved to different classrooms, and faculty may have to work in different areas.

“But we’ll make sure students will still be able to take summer classes,” she adds. “Most importantly for the students, this will elevate the learning process.”