The Humanities’ new space in Walker reflects interdisciplinarity of its workBy Jennifer Carnig
Danielle Allen had two words to say about her new office: “Thank heavens!”
The Dean of the Division of the Humanities, as well as the division’s entire administrative staff, have moved from a cramped three-room suite of offices in the Classics Building and a group of temporary cubicles in Judd Hall to the newly designed second floor of the Walker Museum building, built in the early 1890s.
The chief reason for the move into Walker, which was made possible by the relocation of the Graduate School of Business to its new building on Woodlawn Avenue, was to relieve the Division of the Humanities’ crushing space problem.
Not only has the division received a much-needed external face-lift—the Office of the Dean more than tripled its square footage—but the new bright, spacious location also reflects several important internal changes that have occurred in the division. Several changes have been implemented to enable the division to operate more effectively. For example, a new Office of Technology & Administrative Computing has been created, and the structure of the division in general has been rationalized and made more transparent.
“The new space changes things a lot,” said David Thompson, Dean for Planning & Programs in the Division of the Humanities. “It’s easier for students and faculty to understand how the division functions and how these functions can help them as members of the community. And the new space clarifies the extent to which the division is not just a collection of individual scholars, but a large, interdependent organization for the production and dissemination of knowledge.”
This summer, the Office of the Dean of Students and the faculty of the division’s two largest departments also will move. The Department of English Language & Literature is moving from Gates-Blake Hall, and the Department of Philosophy is moving from the Classics Building. The new department office for Philosophy will be on the second floor of Stuart Hall, while English Language & Literature will have its departmental offices on the fourth floor of Walker. These moves will enable the Department of Comparative Literature to establish its departmental home on the first floor of Classics (where Philosophy used to be), and will provide more meeting and lounge space to the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities.
The rooms that were used by the Division of the Humanities for its divisional offices and mailroom will become faculty offices and classrooms, some of which will belong to the University Registrar and thus will help ease the campus classroom shortage.
“We’re using the new space to evolve,” said Sophia Carroll, the division’s Director of Communications. “This is going to totally change the experience of visitors.”
Whereas the old configuration in Classics had visitors waiting in a hall between busy classrooms and offices, the new building has several waiting areas as well as a large, newly furnished lobby for faculty, students and staff. The days of leaning against bulletin boards in hallways are over. “It’s much friendlier and more open,” Carroll said. “It will make communication easier and more pleasant.”
“We have a tendency to think the life of the mind doesn’t depend on physical surroundings, but that’s not true,” said Thompson. “Our goal is to facilitate collaboration and exchange, to have our spatial configuration reflect the interdisciplinarity that is such an important part of the division’s history.”