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New Faculty Commons Merges Innovation, Teaching Community and Research

Faculty commons feature

Imagine a place on campus where professors of divergent disciplines can find common ground, discuss teaching strategies, take in seminars, embrace new technologies and collaborate on research projects — or just make new friends over a cup of coffee. That’s the vision that spawned the new Faculty Commons.

Faculty Commons
Jon Heggestad and Margaret Hanley try out the light board in the Faculty Commons.

Faculty Commons, which was spearheaded and implemented by the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), is modeled on similar facilities on the campuses of Berkeley, Virginia Commonwealth and Penn State. It will become a reality at Stony Brook University with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the first floor of Melville Library on September 17 at 3 p.m.

The genesis of the project can be traced back to a meeting called by Melissa Woo, SVP for Information Technology, with Patricia Aceves, Shafeek Fazal, and Janet Clarke. They discussed the idea of creating a faculty development space that would support teaching, learning, and library research/scholarship. The group then developed a proof-of-concept paper that was presented to Provost Michael Bernstein, who approved it.

The goal of the Faculty Commons is aligned with the mission of CELT — which is to improve student success through supporting excellence in teaching, innovation, and collaboration.

“Faculty often talk about being ‘siloed’ in their buildings and departments,” said Aceves, assistant provost, CELT. “There is a need is to collaborate with other faculty and discover resources to help them with their teaching. This facility offers them a central space to do that.”

During its roll-out and soft opening, everyone from brand-new to senior faculty have stopped in to see for themselves how the physical space is taking shape.

The 1100-square-foot facility will offer constantly changing technology displays to give faculty an opportunity to learn from staff experts and try out technologies they can incorporate into their own curriculum. The first display features a lightboard and will be followed by one highlighting interactive augmented reality glasses.

Faculty Commons
Faculty Commons

Faculty will check in at an iPad kiosk. The entrance to the Commons is designed to be casual and welcoming, with a coffee bar and high-top seating. Central to the space is a large presentation/seminar area that will host programming, such as guest speakers and lunch-and-learn events. A third area is a casual group seating area with distinctive lighting and comfortable furniture. There is also a conference table and monitor that provides collaboration and content-sharing capabilities. Finally, there will be additional casual seating near a fourth monitor and a large wall of whiteboards for ideation.

Faculty Commons was made possible with Presidential Initiative Funds. CELT and the Stony Brook libraries will provide staff, including instructional designers and technologists, assessment, collections management, and digital media specialists to assist faculty. Staff will rotate through the space during the week and graduate students can potentially fill in if staff are unavailable.

To accommodate the new facility, the School of Journalism relocated its student equipment loan office to another library location.

“I am thrilled that our faculty finally have a dedicated space to enhance their scholarship, research, and art-making,” said Bernstein, “This opportunity for ongoing academic and professional development will undoubtedly strengthen our entire institution.”

Many people helped shepherd this project through to completion, assisting a core team that included:

  • Patricia Aceves, Ed.D., Assistant Provost, CELT
  • Brandi So, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Associate for Digital Humanities, CELT
  • Kimberly Bell, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Associate for STEM, CELT
  • Jennifer Adams, Sr. Emerging Technologist, CELT
  • Yumi Yoshino-Hempel, University Architect, CPDC
  • Martin Ryan, Project Manager, CPDC
  • Margaret Schedel, D.M.A., Associate Professor of Music
  • Diana Voss, Director Academic Technologies, CELT
  • Shafeek Fazal, Interim Dean of University Libraries
  • Janet Clarke, Associate Dean, Research & User Engagement, University Libraries
  • Linda Unger, Sr. Instructional Designer, CELT
  • Gary Van Sise, Director, Educational Technologies, CELT
  • Greg Davis, Media Systems Engineer, CELT

— Glenn Jochum

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