Miller Nichols Learning Center on track for fall 2013 opening

Roze Brooks

The construction of the Miller Nichols Learning Center reached a halfway milestone on Nov. 15.

The new facility being built to the west of the existing Miller Nichols Library will include a 350-seat auditorium, a 400-seat lecture hall divisible into two spaces and two 100-seat halls.

Students and faculty were invited to sign the final steel beam before it was placed.

Funding for the Miller Nichols Library Classroom Building Addition came through an $18 million University of Missouri System  bond approved by the Board of Curators in 2010.

Funds for renovations to the existing library building, completed in spring 2011, came from private donors in exchange for naming rights to classrooms in the learning center.

Ground breaking was in April 2012.  Jeff Vandel, director of facilities planning, design and construction, believes the project is on track to open by August 2013.

“Use of the space will launch full force at the start of the fall 2013 semester,” Vandel said.

On the first floor, the Jeanette Nichols Learning Commons will double as a classroom space and community programming room.

“It’s auditorium style, so it can be used for classes,” Dean of Libraries Bonnie Postlethwaite said. “But we can also bring in outside speakers or have other types of events there that are open to the community as well as the campus. That’s an important part of the University.”

Postlethwaite said she believes this will alleviate professors having to teach duplicate sections of some popular courses, freeing up their schedules to offer other courses.

Postlethwaite said she doesn’t anticipate increased workloads for current professors due to larger class sizes or the need for additional graduate teaching assistantships.

Postlethwaite said student traffic has doubled since the 2011 renovations, particularly during weekday afternoons.

She expects foot traffic to again more than double by next fall with the Learning Center opening.

“We figure we’re going to have about 1,200 people moving in and out of the building at any given time,” Postlethwaite said.

This influx of foot traffic will also stem from the added entryways, including one along 51st Street. This will improve connectivity to the quad. Many students consider access from the north side an inconvenience.

“I think the big things for students and faculty will be that we will have an entrance off of 51st street,” she said. “And we can’t wait for that either.”

Postlewaithe expects another esteemed amenity in the Learning Center will be the expansive study spaces.

“I think from the students’ perspective, in addition to the classes, there’s going to be a lot of study spaces outside of the classes, which I think they’ll find very wonderful,” she said.

The new facility also offers two elevators, unisex bathrooms and a lactation station for nursing mothers.

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