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Bryant U Breaks Ground on New Academic Innovation Center

Rhode Island's Bryant University has broken ground on a new 50,000-square foot "academic innovation center" that will feature a large circular space in the center of the building with modular furniture, sliding whiteboards and places to post things.

Other classrooms in the facility will allow for active learning, with flat flooring, modular furniture and a "fair amount of technology," said Associate Vice President for Teaching and Learning Bob Shea. "We really see that as a place that students will use working in small teams on a variety of projects."
An architect's rendering of the new Bryant U academic innovation center.

Students go through a "first-year experience" program, which includes a one-credit "innovation and design thinking experience." The new space will serve as the "home base" for that course, as well as others in the program, Shea said.

The new center, which is scheduled to open in 2016, also includes several "traditional" rooms with tiered seating. However, he added, "Even there we wanted to build more interactive features into those rooms." That includes putting more space around the tiers, enabling "folks in one row to turn around and work with the folks behind them." That design approach will give students the chance to get "up and out of their seats more often."

The campus is also adding "in excess of 20 breakout spaces" where students can come together in small groups. Those areas will have different sizes and different designs of furniture," Shea said.

The institution has already tested out two active learning classrooms — the Ideation Lab and Bello 102 — to give faculty a chance to try out new kinds of teaching environments. In the Ideation Lab, for example, every wall is writable, including one wall that's made of glass. "It's a fun space to teach in," Shea noted.

The academic innovation center is just one of several updates to the physical campus that Bryant is making, funded by a $75 million capital campaign and expected to add more than 250,000 square feet at the Rhode Island campus and a joint venture facility in Zhuhai, China.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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