Building on Student Success

By: Sherry Bithell

Breaking News

As Ventures was at the printer, the University made three important announcements: The Academic Center will now be known as the Kevin J. Manning Academic Center; the School of Health Professions has been renamed The Sandra R. Berman School of Nursing and Health Professions; and the School of the Sciences is now The Beverly K. Fine School of the Sciences. Look for more information on these exciting changes at and in the winter issue of Ventures. Read the press release.

At Stevenson, change is always in the air—so much so that SU’s signature green could be ascribed to its constant growth.

“This is a particularly exciting fall as we open our largest academic building,” says President Kevin J. Manning, Ph.D. “Stevenson’s new Academic Center will provide state-of-the-art instructional resources for the School of the Sciences and the new School of Health Professions as well as space for the School of Design.” Yet the benefits of this space aren’t limited to these three undergraduate Schools—the new Center will touch all areas of the University, not just during its debut semester but for years to come.

Crunching the Numbers

In 2011, Stevenson purchased the former Shire Pharmaceuticals property located adjacent to its Owings Mills Campus. In 2013, the 18,000-square-foot School of Design building opened for its first classes, but the campus’ second building, the pharmaceutical company’s primary manufacturing facility, needed further work to be classroom-ready. In partnership with builder—and longtime University friend—Howard Brown, Stevenson was able to renovate the existing space at a fraction of the cost of what other universities would pay, says Tim Campbell, Executive Vice President for Financial Affairs and CFO. “By working with Howard Brown, we were able to renovate this building much more efficiently than it would have taken to produce such a state-of-the art facility by starting from scratch.”

Now, the renovated building more than triples the amount of space currently available to the School of the Sciences and School of Health Professions. The 200,000-square-foot building also will house classes and studios for the School of Design as well as a third University library, the Learning Commons. And the University as a whole will benefit from the Academic Center; the recently vacated space on the Greenspring Campus will allow more opportunities for expansion by the School of Education and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the three Schools, the University was able to add:

  • 19 general classrooms,
  • 120 offices,
  • 5 conference rooms,
  • 6 studios,
  • The SoLVE (Solutions for Learning and Vibrant Education) Center,
  • And more than 40 teaching, research, skills, simulation, computer, and specialty design labs and studios.

“In addition to all of the new academic space, we also gained approximately 18 acres of attractive campus space, which bodes extremely well for the future,” Campbell says. “We have very effectively, efficiently, and economically acquired space that will make it conducive to grow the University’s enrollment capacity.”

Three Schools, One Location

How will each of the three Schools housed in the Academic Center use their space? Judiciously, and with great anticipation.

Jeanne Geiger-Brown, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Health Professions, says that students in the nursing program—the largest major at Stevenson—will benefit from the new facilities from their first year on campus. “There are now three fully outfitted large, bright skills labs where students can learn, earlier in their academic careers, more basic healthcare skills, such as suctioning and inserting various tubes like a Foley catheter or nasal gastric tube,” she says. There are also more beds and examination tables to teach students how to perform complete physical exams on manikins.

Students in Laboratory

The additional space also includes four up-to-date, ICU level care simulation rooms that will be used to simulate adult critical and chronic diseases, infant illnesses and emergencies, and childbirth. “We have the capacity now to give students the best environment to practice what they’re learning. Here, they can make a mistake and not hurt anybody, and they can go back and correct the mistake,” Geiger-Brown explains. “This allows the students to develop confidence and competence in their critical-thinking skills—they go beyond learning tasks to thinking like nurses.”

Medical laboratory science students will benefit from a new microbiology lab where they can focus on identifying organisms that cause disease. This, she says, will prepare them to more immediately contribute to their first jobs after graduation.

“All medical laboratory science and nursing students take anatomy and physiology, and the new teaching area supports what students need to learn in these subject areas,” Geiger- Brown adds. “I think that when students look at the facility, they’ll see that it’s a place of active learning, a place where they can be fully immersed in the life of a healthcare professional.”

For the School of the Sciences, Dean Meredith Durmowicz, Ph.D., foresees much of the same. “First and foremost, the Center has so much more space, particularly dedicated space for independent research and active learning,” she says. “We’ve had a research-rich culture for some time now, and we’re going to be able to do that in a nicer space with the opportunity to do more and different types of research throughout our curriculum.” One example she cites is cell culture research. “Faculty who already conduct this research will have more and better support, and faculty who don’t now have the capacity to pursue their research in whatever direction it takes them.”

Students working in Simulated LabTwo other programs in the School that will further flourish are environmental science and biochemistry. Environmental science has a research and teaching lab that it previously lacked as well as a freestanding green house, and biochemistry now has a dedicated teaching lab.

“Having these spaces is great,” Durmowicz says. “We’re not trying to fit these programs into other spaces that are not designed for them.”

One particularly welcome new feature is the SoLVE Center, an innovative academic support program focused on developing students’ relational and problem-solving skills. “The SoLVE Center allows students to take information learned in a chemistry or math course, for instance, and apply it to realworld problems,” she says.

It’s a different way of approaching academic support and teaching and learning and it helps our students retain the information better. It keeps their interest: They’re learning without knowing they’re learning.

Although the School of Design has been on the Owings Mills North Campus since 2013, Dean Amanda Hostalka, M.F.A., believes that the additional spaces in the Academic Center will enable the School to more fully realize its vision of being a creative community. “The synergy created by bringing everyone in the School of Design together on this campus will be inspiring as this move affords us opportunities for greater interdisciplinary collaboration and, therefore, increases our capacity for innovation and growth in art, communication, fashion, film, and visual communication design,” she says. “The enhanced and expanded studios in the Academic Center provide students with access to faculty, technology, equipment, and workspaces all in one place.”

Film and Moving Image StudentsAdditional features for the School in the Center include new art studios, printmaking facilities, letterpress studio, darkroom, digital labs, and fashion and textile studios that, Hostalka says, will give students more spaces and resources to work on their projects and greater flexibility in how to best realize their design ideas. Finally, the communication studio, a lab and home base for courses in writing, design, journalism, and public speaking, will serve as a much-needed “hub” for the many business communication program activities.

The Center also includes an additional School of Design gallery—the University’s fourth arts exhibition space, located on the second floor—that will further showcase the work of students, faculty, and professionals.

Blending the sciences with the arts in one building fits neatly within Stevenson’s mission as a liberal arts institution, and the aforementioned gallery is just one of many places in the expansive new Academic Center where this beneficial cross-pollination of disciplines will occur, says Susan Gorman, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“I do think that our students benefit from interacting with students from the School of Design,” says Geiger-Brown. “Nursing is informed by humanities and arts, so for our students to learn how those students use expressive media to convey their ideas is a great opportunity. As for being housed with the School of the Sciences—only good can come from that.”

Durmowicz agrees that having the School of the Sciences and the School of Health Professions together on the first floor of the academic center will be beneficial. She is also excited about the potential for working more closely with the School of Design.

We’ve had innovative collaborations through the years but this offers more opportunity to truly realize that potential.

School of Design StudentHostalka also sees the connection. “Designers, like scientists, use scientific knowledge and research to solve problems and make discoveries,” she notes. “The process of innovating through biomimicry, for example, uses the natural world as a catalyst for developing sustainable designs for anything from products to buildings. Similarly, when working with healthcare clients, designers use research data and feedback loops to inspire more effective tools and strategies for communicating with patients.”

Overall, says Gorman, there are now many more opportunities for collaboration and learning—both informal and formal—across School and department lines. “Students and faculty will find themselves sharing ideas with each other in a hallway nook or over a cup of tea just as often, if not more so, than they do in the classroom, studio, or laboratory. ‘Space and place’ matter, and the richness of this kind of interdisciplinary learning environment will benefit everyone.”

The Learning Commons

Yet another innovative new space in the Center is evoking great enthusiasm: the Learning Commons. Stevenson’s third library will give a new meaning to the concept of active learning.

Susan Bonsteel, Director of Library Services, explains the genesis of the Learning Commons. “Last fall we conducted an observational study of students at Greenspring and Owings Mills to see how they use space, how they interact, and what they’re actually doing in the library—studying alone, working in groups, using books or laptops, or even just talking. We compiled and used that data to plan the Commons.”

“The Learning Commons was designed to reflect best practices in contemporary library learning spaces,” Gorman elaborates. “In order to remain a vital force in education, libraries and librarians have had to grow and adapt to changing learning paradigms. The name of Stevenson’s new library reflects the expectation that a lot of valuable shared learning will take place there.”

The goal is for the Learning Commons to be a welcoming and flexible space for individual or group study and even to practice class presentations. This idea led to the design inclusion of small, private rooms around the perimeter of the library that can be reserved for use throughout the year. A bright, open area featuring a refreshment bar and comfortable seating should make the new Learning Commons a popular destination for student, faculty, and staff alike.

“Students can receive all library services that they find at the other library locations,” Bonsteel says. “Although there are no print collections, books can be requested and received through campus mail. Librarians will be on hand to help with research, develop workshops, plan events, and refer students to other academic services as needed.

“The hope is that the Learning Commons will foster interdisciplinary conversations, allowing people from different departments to work together and share perspectives,” she continues. “We want to build a community of learners and researchers, people who are interested in collaborating to create new projects.” The space is open to all students from all disciplines, as is the library in the School of Business and Leadership and the Learning Resource Center at Greenspring. “We say that we’re ‘One library, three locations.’”

Another exciting library initiative underway this year is centered upon the notion of scholarly communication. “The new Research and Instruction Librarian who will staff the Learning Commons will establish a process for collecting and sharing all of the outstanding things our faculty, staff, and students are doing in terms of their scholarship and creative works,” Gorman says. “This type of repository will allow us to recognize and celebrate more effectively all that we’re doing as a community of scholars. In time this collection will become a great resource for the University; it will help us to recruit and retain not just excellent students but talented faculty and academic leaders as well.”

A Game-Changer

Durmowicz says that she has spoken with several prospective students as they have come through the Center. “‘Amazing” and ‘incredible’ and ‘unbelievable’ are the words they’re throwing out. This kind of building for science is not something you’d expect to find at a liberal arts institution—the number of labs, the dedicated spaces for all Schools in this building—it’s just exciting.”

From Campbell’s perspective, the Center’s positive addition to the University is twofold. “When students and parents come to Open Houses, the Academic Center makes an impression. We’re hoping that, in turn, will enhance enrollment numbers— and now we’ll have a place for those additional students. We’ve increased our academic capacity with an attractive new campus while economically and efficiently providing the University with an opportunity to expand enrollment. From a business standpoint, Stevenson is now in a position to grow without building more buildings.

Ultimately, this is a game-changer in the most positive of ways: a great building, a great campus, contributing to greater growth.

Learn more about what the new Academic Center has to offer.