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Centennial Hall opens its doors at start of spring semester

February 3, 2014
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Dr. Jane Pederson, professor of history, teaches a class in one of Centennial Hall's lecture halls. 
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Junior mass communication major Isaac Risseeuw takes advantage of one of Centennial Hall's open study areas. 
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Dr. Manjula Joseph, assistant professor of education studies, leads a small group discussion in a Centennial Hall classroom. 

Centennial Hall fast facts

Classrooms:
1 16-seat
1 36-seat
5 45-seat
1 54-seat
9 60-seat
1 66-seat
3 72-seat
1 100-seat
1 140-seat
1 160-seat

Distance education classrooms (included in the totals above):
4

Active learning classrooms specially designed for student group work with state-of-the-art technology (included in the totals above):
3

Teacher education methods labs (not included in the totals above):
4 (2 general education, 1 science education, 1 special education)

General labs: 3 (computer, tutoring, technology)

Collaborative areas: 

  • multiple large, medium and small areas throughout building
  • 4 student study rooms

Offices: 165

Student support services in building:

  • Student Success Center (Academic Skills Center, Math Lab, Services for Students with Disabilities, Center for Writing Excellence)
  • Office of Multicultural Affairs
  • Blugold Beginnings
  • Wisconsin Covenant

Cyber café: 1 (Einstein Bros. Bagels)

Building footprint: 375 feet by 181 feet (larger than an NFL football field)

Number of bricks on building exterior: 315,050

Percentage of building exterior made up of windows: 30 percent

Transom windows in building interior: 470

Skylights (each 56 feet by 13 feet): 2

Built to a standard 30 percent more energy-efficient than current code requires 

EAU CLAIRE — When students returned to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for the start of spring semester Jan. 21, they witnessed something not seen on campus in more than three decades.

Centennial Hall, UW-Eau Claire's newest academic building, was up and running and fully operational after a nearly two-year period of construction in the central campus mall area. The $44.5 million building, located between Schneider Hall and Zorn Arena, is the first new building to be entirely funded with state tax dollars on the UW-Eau Claire campus since 1982.

The approximately 182,000-gross-square-foot building houses the university's College of Education and Human Sciences administrative units; significant new classroom space for use by the entire campus; the departments of education studies, special education, English and languages; and select student support services.

The project was conceived in 2001 as a result of an intensive study led by UW-Eau Claire's facilities planning unit and involving UW System and all UW-Eau Claire departments from academic and student affairs, said Ricardo Gonzales, UW-Eau Claire director of facilities planning.

"Centennial Hall had been the No. 1 priority for the campus in several biennial budget submissions to UW System," said Gonzales, who wrote the original project request document to UW System. "Its completion was essential to free up space in many existing buildings and to bring together many student affairs and academic affairs departments that had been separated for several years. The new building allows for greater operational efficiencies and greater collaboration."

UW-Eau Claire's teacher education programs will see tremendous improvements in facilities, equipment and technology as a result of moving to the new building from the Brewer Hall/Campus School complex and the Human Sciences and Services building, said Dr. Gail Scukanec, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, adding that the education programs are located on the building's third floor.

"The science lab will provide flexibility we haven't seen before," Scukanec said.

The room is set up with 30 seats in the middle of the room for nonlab work and lecture, and lab stations around the perimeter where 30 students can work. The lab is equipped with four interactive Smart Boards, a fume hood, and gas and water at all stations.

"Students may find similarly equipped labs and classrooms when they begin their teaching careers," Scukanec said. "Because this technology and flexibility already exist in some schools, we want to prepare students going into those schools and be ahead of the game in preparing students for schools without such equipment."

Scukanec said the college also has gained a resource room for teacher education, which can be used as a small classroom or for group work. The early childhood education room has equipment typically used in a classroom for younger children, including a sink for washing toys. The technology lab gives students the tools they need to work on projects involving technology, including the submission of videos of their student teaching, which is required of all new teachers by the state.

One of the huge advantages of bringing the education studies and special education departments together is the opportunity for collaboration, Scukanec said.

"Such collaboration will better prepare all new graduates of our teacher education program to serve every child," she said.

Scukanec, who served as building committee chair during the construction project, said determining which departments would be housed in Centennial Hall was based on relationships between units and physical fit.

"Both the languages and English departments have numerous education students, so they were a logical choice," she said. "The new space also allowed some student service units to come together to create the Student Success Center — Services for Students with Disabilities, Academic Skills Center, Math Lab and Center for Writing Excellence. Also, with the university's commitment to inclusive education, we wanted the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Blugold Beginnings to have a more prominent space on campus, so they were located on the first floor of the building."

Many of the classrooms in Centennial Hall are equipped with Smart Boards and flat screens and have technology to support iPads and other electronic devices — providing students with a state-of-the-art experience, Scukanec said. The building also features collaborative learning spaces, which are located in the windowed corners of the building and in some smaller spaces; several group work rooms with computer hookups; and a cyber café (Einstein Bros. Bagels). The building's three active learning classrooms have flat panels, interactive whiteboards and semicircular desk units where students can work on projects together.

Among the building's most impressive features are its windows and skylights, said Chris Hessel, UW-Eau Claire engineering specialist and university project manager.

"The intentional design of the building was to maximize natural light," Hessel said. "The large skylights, the tall windows making up 30 percent of the building's exterior and the transom windows above office and classroom doors allow a lot of natural light into the building, creating a bright, open environment for its users."

One of Centennial Hall's more beautiful features is the pattern etched into the large glass windows on the building's southwest corner, Scukanec said.

"This architectural integrated artwork is a leaf pattern, a symbol for life in some cultures, including the Hmong culture," she said.

The process of allocating space in Centennial Hall began about eight years ago with a space needs analysis to examine the then current and future physical plant needs of each unit, said Dr. Michael Wick, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of graduate studies.

"As part of the building planning process, a more extensive space analysis was performed, including a classroom-demand study," Wick said. "Based on both studies and the desire to co-locate the education departments, the building planning committee, in consultation with the building architects, allocated space within the building."

Wick said Centennial Hall's facilities have allowed more flexibility in assigning priority classrooms, which are allocated to departments based on need and result in the most efficient use of classroom space.

"Prior to Centennial Hall, the assignment of priority classrooms was largely based on historical decisions," Wick said. "With the opportunities provided by Centennial Hall, we revisited these assignments and tried to ensure that every department or program has access to at least one priority room."

Scukanec said she encourages all university departments to take advantage of the building's technology and resources.

"It will be fun to see how Centennial Hall gets used," she said. "Students and faculty from across campus will have access to meeting spaces, classrooms and collaborative learning spaces and will be able to enjoy the flexibility the updated facilities offer. My hope is that every student will have at least one class in the building while they're here and that every room is in use at all times."

Centennial Hall will be dedicated Wednesday, Feb. 5. See related news release for details.

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