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SC&I to build office extension during summer

<p>The new 5,190-square-foot extension to the School of Communication and Information will grant space for faculty and doctoral students.</p>

The new 5,190-square-foot extension to the School of Communication and Information will grant space for faculty and doctoral students.

The University has plans to build a 5,190-square-foot addition to an existing School of Communication and Information building on the College Avenue campus this summer.

The extension will house 14 faculty offices, a small meeting room and space for approximately 30 doctoral students, said Greg Trevor, senior director of University Media Relations.

The University will add the extension to the Annex, a School of Communication and Information faculty office building, to alleviate its office space shortage, said Karen Novick, associate dean of the School of Communication and Information.

The addition will create more faculty and doctoral student offices, which are currently scarce, she said.

Josh Gelles, assistant director of the Center for Communication and Health Issues for the school, said the planned space for doctoral students would allow the students to collaborate and feed off each other’s ideas the same way that scientific researchers do.

Gelles, who shares office space with a doctoral student, said his work for the Center for Communication and Health Issues, which looks at the varying health issues affecting college students, is highly collaborative both within the office and with the rest of the University.

He does not mind sharing space because his officemate also works under the umbrella of the center, he said.

“It’s a lot easier for me to turn around and tell [my officemate] something as opposed to having to walk to her room or give her a call or have to shoot her an email,” he said. “It expedites our processes.”

Gelles said he had not heard many complaints from people who share offices. Faculty should expect some disruptions in their daily work, but having a collaborative setting minimizes the distraction.

Providing an open space for student interaction will also make the school more appealing to interested graduate students, especially those interested in new media, he said.

“Giving them a space to work and collaborate is very important, because these are the future faculty members,” he said.

Graduate students work for the faculty, conduct personal research, teach classes and bring prestige to the University by presenting their research findings, he said.

“The doctoral students, in a way, serve a really important purpose within SC&I,” he said. “They’re kind of the unsung heroes of SC&I.”

Novick said the shortage of office space became more critical within the last several years as the school grew. The space shortage has been an issue for years, but the school recently found an opportunity to have the Annex extension address the issue.

The school has three undergraduate majors that are some of the largest degrees offered by the University, she said.

The school has more students than it did eight years ago, and the lack of faculty space impacts how students are able to interact with professors and doctoral teaching assistants because many faculty and staff members share offices, she said.

The School of Communication and Information ultimately plans to centralize its programs in one building on the College Avenue campus, a long-term goal that requires more time and planning, Novick said.

While the addition does not completely solve the problem, the additional space would be a positive improvement on the current situation while the school plans for a new building, she said.

“We hope to be able to move in in the early part of the fall semester,” she said.

After assigning faculty to the new space, the school will rearrange people in the main building to create more research hubs, as well as provide effective work areas, Trevor said.

Gelles said it took him half an hour to find parking that morning because of the shortage of space in the three parking lots immediately surrounding the School of Communication and Information buildings.  

“There’s a lack of parking here, period,” he said.

The school’s expansion risks making the already difficult task of parking more difficult for faculty members, because there used to be a parking lot where the school is building the Annex’s extension, he said.

Gelles said the building extension increases traffic to the area but does not address the need to provide parking to accommodate it.

“It took me half an hour to find a spot, but I finally found a spot,” he said.  “I don’t know if it’s an irresolvable issue at this point, but it’s definitely one that needs to be taken into consideration.”

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