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Calkins: From lab to lounge

By Alexi Knock, Managing Editor

This summer, five students devoted their entire vacation to transforming  the Calkins Hall computer lab from a place with industrial rows of computers to a high-tech meeting spot for software tutoring or group work.

Calkins has always been less popular than the Hammer Lab – located across from Axinn Library – so the Student Computing Services team spent last Spring conducting dozens of interviews with students to find out what changes they wanted to see to the University's computer labs.

"Every student we talked to said, ‘we like Hammer the way it is so why would you change it?'" said Judith Tabron, Director of Faculty Computing Services. "We formulated a plan for Calkins from there and hired five students, who worked all summer on this."

Computing Services wanted to emphasize student involvement in this big change, so the young employees got to handpick every piece of the new lab from the furniture to the carpeting.

 "I think it was a genius idea to leave the decision up to the students," said Owen Aquino, one of the students leaders of the project.  "The University is here to serve us, so what better way than to listen to the students and see what we like?"

The five students traveled to a furniture showroom in Manhattan over the summer to buy the latest technology and furniture for the space.

"We wanted to make this something the students would like and use," Tabron said. "It's been a lot of fun seeing it come together."

The new lab includes 15 new iMacs, mobile tables, a media bench and projectors for students to display their work for group projects. Students can come in for free tutoring on several software programs, use the Pride Print system or just hang out in the café style layout.

"I think students are going to love the new study lounge environment," said Aquino. "The future of Calkins Lab will be the successful linking between technology and the modern student."

The grand opening of the Calkins Computer Lab will be Tuesday, Sept. 14 from noon to 5 p.m.

The reinvention of the computer lab is just one example of renovations that occurred over the summer. After surveying Greek Life Presidents, Resident Assistants and several other students groups, the University made changes to Hofstra USA, Dutch Treats, Enterprise, Bill of Rights and Suffolk Hall.

"We're always looking to invest and improve," said Peter Libman, Dean of Students. "It's ultimately about the students and if we don't get their input, something is missing."

Mediascape features circular sofa seating for group presentations on a large monitor. (Michaela Papa/The Chronicle)

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