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Plan for academic neighborhood takes shape.

When The Duke Endowment announced a $45 million gift to Davidson College in October 2012, the largest gift ever to the institution, a plan for increased collaboration and transdisciplinary study was set into motion. The time had come to reimagine how students and faculty conduct research, how they learn and how they engage with the community around them.

“Davidson graduates lead and serve in an increasingly interconnected, rapidly changing world,” said President Carol Quillen. “To stay ahead of these changes, we need to shift how we work, both physically and intellectually. And so we began to envision a series of places where faculty, students and staff of varying disciplines can come together to collaborate on projects that are led by the students’ inquisitiveness, their passion for exploring the big questions related to global challenges. We want our campus environment to enable and to foster this collaboration and community across boundaries. The possibilities are the hallmark of the magic of the liberal arts educational experience.”

The Academic Neighborhood plans call for a restructuring of the main academic portion of campus to create spaces that foster new methods of learning. Six buildings will be expanded, renovated or constructed over the next decade to create a “neighborhood” with flexible spaces and common areas that encourage the exchange and generation of ideas across conventional academic boundaries—between departments, fields and the arts and sciences. Faculty and staff will be grouped in these facilities by the resources they need and their potential interactions with others. Community and flexible spaces, such as a café, artist studios, learning labs, shared equipment and computational facilities, will promote interactions among all members of the campus community.

“As a researcher and teacher who is housed in a part of campus that is not connected to the Academic Neighborhood, I am no less committed to the ideas this design brings to Davidson,” said Ann Fox, Professor of English. “The neighborhood is about a mindset and a promise that we will leave our individual disciplines and imagine what’s possible when we further interconnect our questions and ideas with other areas of study.”

The new building, as currently planned, will include up to 20 teaching laboratory spaces, 34 research labs, 47 faculty offices, shared faculty and student common areas, and five learning environments for lectures, presentations and group discussions.

“One of the aspects of Davidson that is most attractive to me is how faculty members understand the value of working together,” said Wendy Raymond, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. “A simple concept, in theory, teamwork is at the core of the Academic Neighborhood and, rightly, at the core of Davidson. Our students’ experiences are richer when there is overlap between fields, and our faculty members are able to introduce perspectives that may otherwise appear unrelated. Collaboration results in better outcomes across the board, and I am honored to be a part of this important step for Davidson.”

The new facility requires an investment of more than $80 million, and alumni, parents and friends of Davidson are critical to the project’s success. A visit to the new website will provide additional information about the project, a video showcasing campus perspectives and a fly-through tour of the architectural plans. www.davidson.edu/academic-neighborhood

– by Danielle Strickland

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About Author

Danielle Strickland

Danielle Strickland concentrates on development-related stories, and she enjoys making connections with Davidson’s most engaged alumni and friends. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from James Madison University and a master’s in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas. Thankfully, after seven years working as a Razorback, her red-heavy wardrobe allowed for a smooth transition to life as a Wildcat.

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