Published: Fall 2010 in Feature Story

Open House

Step inside Adams Center for the Visual Arts and take a first look at the spacious Westmont Museum (above), which opened in September with a show by longtime professor John Carlander. In his 31 years at Westmont, he has seen the art department grow from one room upstairs in Reynolds Hall to a facility any art department would welcome. “The students love the new painting studio,” he says (right). “The biggest change is the elbow room. It was hard to work large in a small space — our one studio kept getting smaller as we added offices.”

All the studios in Adams have hinged doors that open to the outdoors; the painting studio has two (above).

See the design studio, (left);

crafts studio (right);

printmaking (left).

Lisa DeBoer (below) appreciates the tiered seating in the Adams Center lecture room where she teaches art history. “I thought it might stifle conversation, but it has created more intimacy between me and the class and a good atmosphere for discussion,” she says. “Students can turn around and talk to each other because the fixed seats swivel all the way around.” The room is designed to run three projectors at a time, but getting the new system to work properly hasn’t been easy. However, it’s still a big improvement over the old classroom.

“It’s been good for students to see art students at work in the studios,” she says. “Being in the middle of campus has increased the visibility of the art program. I hope the new buildings make the academic program visible in a way that was dispersed and hidden before and that students think of Westmont as the classrooms, teachers and students in these buildings. As students circulate in this environment, they will feel part of Westmont. Spaces shape people and community, and these will shape us in profound ways.”

Deanna Pini (left) teaches three ceramics courses a year and has never had an office, so she’s delighted with her new space in Adams. After years of collecting pottery-related posters, she finally has a place to hang them.

The large ceramics studio features ample storage for an assortment of clay, large tables where students can work, shelves that hold drying pottery and two kilns. “It’s made a big difference for the students,” she says. “Before, I’d give a demonstration, and they would all leave because there wasn’t enough room for them to work at the same time. Now they all stay and help each other, and the quality of their work has improved.”

“The difference between Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics and our old home in Bauder Hall is like night and day,” says psychology professor Brenda Smith (left). “We have more space, and the space is more usable. The efficient, dedicated labs mean we’re not setting up and breaking down equipment all the time. Students are more excited about working in the labs, and they’re performing better in their lab work.” In Bauder, Brenda’s office was hidden upstairs. Her office in Winter opens to a learning lounge, so she connects with more students. “I’m really enjoying these informal conversations with students,” she says.

“The new labs expand the scope of the research we can do and enhance its quality,” says Steve Rogers (right), who teaches psychology. He studies the cognitive ability of senior citizens and says he now has a good place to bring people to do testing for his research. “Students say they’ve always known Westmont is a great school for academics, scholarship, research and community, but now we have the buildings and facilities to match,” Steve says. “They see consistency between what they know Westmont is and the college’s facilities.”

Ken Kihlstrom (left) says the sheer space in Winter Hall impresses him, and he raves about the new physics labs. “Students will be able to do more sophisticated research in these facilities,” says the physics professor. “I’ve seen a qualitative difference in the way first-year students talk about Westmont; they have real pride in the facilities.” Ken admires the beauty of the central atrium — and plans to hold his annual egg drop there. He’s already tested the space by coordinating a simultaneous drop of 500 bouncy balls from the top floor; he reports they kept bouncing for 50 seconds, and he’s still finding them.

The Darling Foundation Lecture Hall (large photo above and right) in Winter Hall features the latest technology, with computer outlets at every seat. Students refer to it affectionately as the U.N. room or the Imperial Senate.

The stairs in Winter’s three-story central atrium (left) create a natural meeting place. The building houses computer science, mathematics, physics and psychology, but a variety of courses meet there.

“Part of the charm of Winter is being in the middle of the action and having colleagues from other departments here,” says mathematics professor Patti Hunter.“The most exciting thing is the learning lounge outside our offices (below). We have longed for space where students can hang out, work and consult with us. Mathematics is a collaborative discipline, and we now have space for that. We sense there is more substance to our space and work here; the visual impact is important.” The mathematics and computer science lounge and seminar room (below left) have traditional chalkboards.

Winter Hall makes a difference in how we feel about ourselves,” says physics professor Michael Sommermann (below right). “It motivates me as professor to do a better job; it’s wonderful to have these new tools. Students pick up on that and sense a seriousness of purpose here.” Michael oversees the modern physics lab; the old building had only one small lab that all classes and faculty shared. “Now we have enough labs so we can set up equipment and leave it up,” Michael says. “Students can come back in the evening and continue working anytime they want. It gives them much more flexibility. Our lounge space also draws students — and they’re not always physics majors. It’s a new place where like-minded students can study.”

In the general physics lab (below right), Professor Warren Rogers helps students study projectile motion. “The facilities in Winter Hall are what students would hope for and expect at a college,” he says. “Even the lab benches are a big improvement. We have plenty of room for the 12 students in this class, even when they’re shooting projectiles all over the room. We’ve never been able to spread out like this. I’ve seen a real difference in the morale and attitude of students.” Warren has a research lab on the bottom floor of the building, where his work can stay up as long as he needs. The physics department is using brand-new equipment, welcome replacements for what they lost when their building burned to the ground in the 2008 Tea Fire.

The four students in Kim Kihlstrom’s computer organization and architecture class (below left) are building and programming Lego robots in the electronics lab the computer science department shares with physics. “It’s really great that we don’t have a computer lab in a closet anymore,” she says. “In the past the students had to build their robots on top of their laptops. Now they have space on the table and the counters and easy access to electric outlets. We also have ample storage space for the Legos next door to the lab.” At the end of the semester, the robots will battle each other to test the students’ skill in programming assembly language. The computer science department has a large computer lab just down the hall, where students can also gather and study.

Westmont students have embraced the new Voskuyl Library after the redesign of its interior space last summer. During the first six weeks of the semester, the number of students using the facility increased 330 percent. “It’s busy all the time in here,” says Debra Quast, director of library and information services. “Students are making more requests for books and journals through Inter-Library Loan, checking out more books from our collection, and consulting more online resources. Spending more time in the library has helped them see it as a viable place to do research. Off-campus students tell me they are driving to campus in the evening just to study in the library.”

Writers Corner, the reference librarian and the new information technology help desk are now located together in the learning commons. “Students have a one-stop shop where they can get assistance in finding resources, using technology and writing effectively,” Debra says. “The traffic to these desks has increased dramatically.” Students appreciate relaxed rules about food and drink in the library; they can buy coffee, tea and cocoa there and bring in their own food. The new white-board walls in the group study rooms are popular, and most are covered with writing. “Every single learning space we designed is being used,” Debra says. “It’s wonderful to see students enjoying and using the library.”

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