Ohio University

29 Park Place to serve as heart of OHIO’s academic engagement efforts

Published: April 23, 2018 Author: Staff reports

The former presidential residence at 29 Park Place will be repurposed into a communal space designed to raise the profile of academic engagement across Ohio University’s campus and in the community.

The renovation of the residence, carriage house, and grounds of the property into the Center for Academic Engagement is now in the design phase. The goal is to foster collaboration among students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners, and to enable frequent, rich, and collaborative academic programming. It will be a central location that can be used for programming by the President, University Advancement, all of the academic units, and other campus partners.

“The former presidential residence has long been at the heart of Ohio University, academically and geographically, so it makes perfect sense for it to serve as the new Center for Academic Engagement,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “Academic engagement is the core of everything we do. The Center will serve as a primary resource for anyone interested in engaging with the University’s academic activities.”

Interim Honors Tutorial College Dean Cary Frith said the Center will build on Ohio University’s strengths and maximize experiences for those looking to engage.

“We are known on this campus for providing incredibly rich academic advising support for students,” Frith said. “What we don’t have in a central location is a resource for current students, faculty members, community members, alumni, and prospective students to connect academically and collaborate to develop experiential education opportunities.”

The residence’s proximity to Alden Library and Baker University Center, along with its history, make it a natural fit to serve as the academic engagement heart of campus.

"This is the center of the Athens campus, and there is no better way to honor the history of this area as the heart of campus than to repurpose it for what the heart of our mission is – academic engagement,” Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs said. “It’s a place where faculty, staff, community, students, and all of our University partners are already coming on a regular basis. If you think of 29 Park Place as a hub for academic engagement, it completes a triangle with Alden Library and Baker University Center, and extends academic opportunities along the entire Park Place corridor.”

Frith said the residence will include a help desk where any student, staff or faculty member, alumni or community representative can go for information about academic engagement. Community members looking to partner with faculty or students, for example, could learn about how to do that, or prospective students could make it a primary stop to learn about opportunities on campus.

The help desk staff would include highly-engaged students from a variety of programs, Frith said.

“The National Survey of Student Engagement talks about the many dividends of students engaging in what they call high-impact practices,” Frith said. “The best way to draw first-generation students and students from historically-underrepresented groups into those practices is to have a peer mentor. That’s why we want the honors and scholars students to be ambassadors for engaged learning. They’re going to lead their peers into these rich hands-on learning experiences.”

The center will include a variety of spaces designed for collaborative engagement, including a modern seminar space designed for engaged learning. It will house the Center for Campus and Community Engagement, which connects faculty members and community members to create hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, Sayrs said. The center will also be available to host a wide variety of events, music recitals, student and faculty meetings, president-hosted events, and more.

“We partnered with University College to propose this idea. Normally we are talking about the incredible ways in which we help our students minimize obstacles and persist to achieve their academic goals. With this center we are helping anyone who wants tap into OHIO’s rich array of academic opportunities, such as undergraduate research or service-learning opportunities,” Frith said.

Parts of the center will serve as a home to the OHIO Honors Program, which will launch as a pilot in the Fall 2018 semester, and signature academic engagement programs like the Cutler Scholars Program and the Ohio Fellows Program. However, anyone looking for a chance to connect, even if they don’t know exactly what they are looking for, is welcome to visit 29 Park Place.

The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the renovation of the buildings at a cost of $2.3 million during its meeting in March. The University is now in the design process, with construction anticipated to begin during Fiscal Year 2019.