Lounge-chair seating. Bistro-height tables.
Room 220 in Ambrose Hall is not your father's classroom anymore. Maybe not even your big brother's.
Three classrooms in the oldest building on campus have a decidedly fresh, coffee-shop look and feel to them as the spring semester commences at St. Ambrose. See a slideshow of the renovated classrooms on Flickr.
"We wanted to try some new things," said Mike Poster ‘88, SAU's vice president of finance. He also chaired a committee to design classrooms that manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. describes as "learning studios." But the coffee shop comparison isn't too far from the truth.
"Generation X or Generation Y, they really are kind of enamored by what things are like at Starbucks or Java City," said Jeanette Smith, a Herman Miller sales representative for the Davenport branch of Pigott, Inc.
The idea, Smith said, is to provide an environment that is comfortable for both instructor and student, and specific to subject. Not every instructor could make use of the less formal arrangements in rooms 220, 228 and 233. Not every student, either, could learn in those settings.
"Herman Miller partnered with a lot of different schools and research showed that people learn in all different styles," said Smith.
Each of the three rooms has a different look, but beyond that, Smith said, each also can be configured in as many as four different ways by repositioning furniture.
"It gives the professor the ability to change to the classrooms from more individual settings to group settings," she said.
Poster said plans already were being made to update parts of the older buildings on campus in order to keep pace with classrooms in newer buildings like New Hall and the College of Health and Human Services building on Lombard and Marquette streets. Then, Herman Miller got his attention with a sales approach as fresh as the furniture.
"We liked when they came in and said ‘I'm not just going to sell you chairs and podiums. I want to find out how you can improve your learning environment,'" said Poster, who subsequently visited a Herman Miller corporate campus with Physical Plant Director Jim Hannon '84 last summer.
Next, a faculty committee was formed to give input on designs and classroom adaptability needs.
"I've had a couple of people refer to the look as the Jetsons," said committee member and professor Jessica Gosnell, PhD. "The people on the committee were looking for something that was dynamic, that could accommodate a lot of different teaching styles."
She said the adaptability of each design was a key selling point.
Poster said more rooms in Ambrose and McMullen Halls could be in for updates.
"I think we will look to do those over time," he said. "I'd like to say we're going to do 10 at a time, but we have got a lot of other things on our docket."