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New Learning Environments Open with the Beginning of the New Academic Year

One is newly created from unfinished concrete, while the other reimagines a 130-year-old building: Two new learning environments, the Mulva Studio and the Cassandra Voss Center, see their debut on campus this fall.

The Mulva Studio will serve as a flexible, high-tech space for individual or collaborative study.

The Cassandra Voss Center is to house the women’s and gender studies discipline, the Men’s Initiative and the Joan P. Schaupp Women's Center. 

Mulva Studio
The new studio space makes creative use of the previously unoccupied lower level of the Mulva Library, now transformed into a dynamic and versatile environment. 

“The big need was study space where students could spread out at tables,” says library director Kristin Vogel, a member of the Mulva Studio project team. “It’s intended to be space for creative problem solving and visual concept work with traditional writing. A lot of the walls are going to have whiteboard spaces. You can write on the glass walls with dry-erase markers. You can do a lot of physical work as well as the mental work in this space.”

One wall features a concept map designed to illustrate connections between ideas. A blank Venn diagram fills another wall. A third wall outfitted with wall tracks and a series of whiteboards facilitates storyboarding.

Two mediascape tables also encourage collaborative study. Each table has two monitors with central ports so users can plug in personal devices, such as laptops, for display.

“The wireless network for the entire library building has been upgraded in anticipation of the heavy use for this space,” says Vogel. “This is hardworking, intellectual academic space, but very comfortable.”

The studio was designed with student input and has a 150-seat capacity. Various seating heights throughout the space suit the needs of students, faculty and staff. In addition to its ample study space, the studio also houses a television studio set for video recording, and an audio recording room so students can create voiceovers and podcasts.

The project was funded through the generosity of Miriam B. and James J. Mulva. A Mulva Studio open house is scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 16.

Cassandra Voss Center
Cassandra Voss ’08 had a passion for equality that led her to pursue the college’s first women’s and gender studies major – a goal cut short by her 2007 death in an automobile accident at age 21. The new Cassandra Voss Center memorializes her with an innovative space dedicated to gender scholarship. The center reimagines the former St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1883. The building, most recently known as St. John’s Hall, is located at 311 Grant Street.

“We are very aware of a national conversation around gender and social justice and issues of diversity as a Catholic college,” says Karlyn Crowley, director of the Cassandra Voss Center.

“We really want to participate in that conversation. It’s a really exciting and forward-thinking time to be a part of it. We will be on the forefront. This is a move in Catholic higher education, not just at St. Norbert.”

Crowley says four values guide the center: scholarship, welcome, innovation and fun.

“This center has a mission to also address the needs of faculty and staff as well as students,” says Crowley. “We hope to have visiting scholars, host faculty research out of the center, undergraduate research and staff development. We want people to feel like, ‘That’s a place I want to be.’ ”

The $2.7 million renovation has created a cutting-edge space while preserving historic elements of the building.

“The building is set up to be multipurpose, very open and movable,” says Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer ’11, the center’s assistant director. “We’ve been working on making it an up-to-date, innovative space. We have a full kitchen because sometimes that innovation involves food in the classroom.”

The lower level features classroom space. Offices, a performance stage and a screening space are found on the first floor.

“The first floor is a very open combination of a nod to the past building – a church – and attention towards modern, forward thinking,” says Czarnik-Neimeyer. Its furniture was selected by the Rev. James Neilson, O.Praem., ’88 (Voss’ art teacher at St. Norbert) to look both modern and appropriate to the space.

The second floor will feature the Joan P. Schaupp Women’s Center Lounge, which will house a collection of books. The church bell tower has been transformed into the Reflection Center for Hope, designed by the Rev. Jay Fostner, O.Praem., ’84 (Mission and Student Affairs).

“That will be a space where students can come to reflect or meditate,” says Czarnik-Neimeyer. “There is a beautiful skylight up there, which will light up at night so it will be a beacon on campus.”

A dedication ceremony for the Cassandra Voss Center will be held at 3 p.m. on Sept. 18 – Voss’ birthday – followed by a concert at 7 p.m. On SNC Day, Sept. 21, Debbie Sterling, an engineer from Stanford University who has done gender research on toys, will be at the center for the Midwest launch of GoldieBlox, her new engineering toy for girls.

Sept. 3, 2013