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KNOXVILLE — The new Scripps Convergence Lab is open for business in the College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The lab opened at the start of the spring semester, and a grand opening celebration will be held Friday in the lab, located on the fourth floor of the College of Communication and Information. The event is by invitation only.

Funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation, the 4,000-square-foot lab is similar to the “The Commons” area of Hodges Library in that it provides an informal gathering spot for the college’s students and organizations, as well as rooms for occasional class meetings. The space includes two studio areas, a conference room, a focus group room, lounge space, a kitchenette and offices for members of the college’s information technology team. The lab is equipped with computers, software, audio-visual equipment, including UT’s first high-definition projector and a portable HD video studio, and portable white boards.

“This is going to become the hub for the college,” Dean Mike Wirth said. The lab allows students in different areas of the college — the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, the School of Advertising and Public Relations, the School of Information Sciences, and the School of Communication Studies — to mingle and collaborate.

“It encourages a convergence of the disciplines, something that’s increasingly important as the problems we deal with become increasingly complex,” Wirth said, adding that the college will be encouraging its faculty to work together so students can produce interdisciplinary projects.

“Our students now have access to the technology and space they need to create more elaborate projects,” Wirth said. “With our classrooms and teaching labs equipped with cameras, computers and other technology booked solid with classes, the Scripps Lab will have a transformative impact on the educational experience of our students.”

The $500,000 gift — the largest cash gift the college has received — is part of the Campaign for Tennessee. The most ambitious fund-raising effort in the university’s 214-year history, the campaign places UT among the ranks of the nation’s largest public and private institutions that have sought this level of private support.

The campaign, which launched its silent phase in 2005, will secure private gifts that, in turn, will contribute substantially to the distinct, but linked, campuses in the UT system. Funds raised through the campaign will directly support the objectives of UT’s strategic plan. Among those objectives are improved student access and success, research and economic development, outreach and globalization.

The Scripps Howard Foundation previously presented the university with a $50,000 gift to fund the Tennessee Journalist Web Journalism Project, which connects UT journalism and electronic media students with top Web journalism professionals.

The Scripps Howard Foundation, based in Cincinnati, is the philanthropic arm of the E.W. Scripps Co. Its mission is to advance the cause of a free press through support of excellence in journalism, quality journalism education and professional development. The foundation helps build healthy communities and improve the quality of life through support of sound educational programs, strong families, vital social services, enriching arts and culture and inclusive civic affairs, with a special commitment to the communities in which Scripps does business.

The E. W. Scripps Co., also headquartered in Cincinnati, is focused on newspaper publishing, broadcast television, and licensing and syndication. It owns the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The company’s cable networks and specialty Internet search businesses were spun off July 1, 2008, into a new company — Scripps Networks Interactive. The Scripps Networks, which are part of Scripps Networks Interactive, are headquartered in Knoxville and include HGTV, DIY, Food Network, Fine Living Network, Great American Country, and soon will take on the Travel Channel and a new venture, the Cooking Channel.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,