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Kleinpell Fine Arts building expects new media lab by Fall 2020     

May 8, 2019

In the next year, the first floor of Kleinpell Fine Arts will be seeing some major changes. A taskforce has been commissioned to plan a new media lab in KFA 112 and 113. The lab will include modern amenities such as smart technologies, a teaching space, a new equipment check-out center, a green room, a recording space and a collaboration station.

“This project, it’s like Halley’s comet. [The comet] won’t come around in my lifetime, or yours, so it’s a big deal,” Erik Johnson, an associate professor in the SASA department, said.

Construction is slated to begin in the Summer of 2020, to be completed by Fall of 2020. “So, it’s not too far off,” Johnson added. “The space will be totally remodeled.”

Johnson said the taskforce is approaching the concept of a media lab in an entirely new way. “In the past, the computer labs have been housed with specific kinds of computers. But the challenge with that is they’re in a room, that room has limited access, and the students can’t take the computers with them. This [lab] will require laptops.”

From a technical standpoint, Johnson stated the media center will be state of the art. “In terms of future-proofing this, it’s a way more feasible and smart investment to have a space like this, as opposed to a whole room of computers that have a maximum of five year shelf-life.”
For students taking classes in Stage and Screen Arts and similar courses, Johnson provides insight on the struggles they’ve had with personal laptops. “That, frankly, has been one of the biggest challenges for the classes I teach, because of the fact not all students have access to a computer.”

Committee member and head of the art department, Dan Paulus explained why the committee believes this project is sustainable. “There’s a survey that came out last year that this campus participated in, that showed about 96 percent of students already have a laptop. What we want to do is make it 10 percent. Basically, it would make it easier for us to find spaces to teach and collaborate together.”

Students in the SASA and art departments will have the opportunity to reach out to financial aid and request a computer with specific build requirements and software programs related to their courses. According to Johnson, this initiative is already “in the books.”

“Ultimately, what we’re hoping will happen is students that are signed up for these classes will have their own laptops, bring them into this space and link them into the hubs in the classroom. Having a laptop, taking it home with you, where you can do their editing and bring it to class and everyone’s together [. . . ]” is one of the largest benefits of this initiative, according to Johnson. Johnson believes time in class will be used more efficiently, and both students and faculty will be better off for it.

On the other hand, Paulus has some concerns. The collaboration of the different departments, Paulus believes, can both help and hinder this project. “A lot of us believe the future of higher ed lies in collaboration,” Paulus explained. “This was initially initiated by the art department, and it’s kind of grown bigger. My concern is that it’s maybe a little too big. There’s too much collaboration,” Paulus said. “My fear is because there are so many people involved now that there might be too much usage. [Teachers] might not have enough time in the space. That’s my concern. But if it can be heavily used, that’s good thing.”

Both Johnson and Paulus agree that working on the project has been a great opportunity. “I think this will be something that students will immediately benefit from, faculty will benefit from, just to have a space that will serve the students and serve the idea of new and innovative types of curriculum,” Johnson said.

A budget has already been set aside for the construction of the lab. As the money will not be going towards new computers, Johnson asserts the budget will be distributed between infrastructure and making the space comfortable. With “exciting” and modern amenities, the committee plans on constructing the lab to be “future-proof” for years to come.