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HSS classroom renderingA desire to improve learning and foster more student interaction is driving the renovations of the Humanities and Social Sciences Building.

The work is already under way and will kick into high gear once the spring semester ends. It will continue through the summer.

HSS is one of the most heavily used buildings on campus. About 20 percent of all UT classes are taught there, and several hundred instructors use it each semester.

When students, faculty, and staff return to the building in the fall, they’ll find classrooms with high-tech facilities, more vibrantly colored furniture and walls, and furniture that can be configured in multiple ways.

The traditional front of the classroom—typically where the podium or projector is—would be de-emphasized. The front would become any of the four walls, depending on the configuration of the chairs, which will be on wheels and have the ability to swivel.

“This is a campus effort to change classroom layout and design to allow students to learn in a variety of different ways,” said Bill Dunne, chairman of the university’s Classroom Upgrade Subcommittee, which proposed and developed the project over the last three years.

The project is a collaborative effort between the Classroom Upgrade Committee, Facilities Services, the College of Architecture and Design, and the Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center.

In addition to the more attractive, state-of-the-art classrooms, the building’s hallways will become learning, studying, or hang-out spaces with benches, wall boards, charging stations for electronic devices, and new LEED accent lighting. Aramark will put in a new facility featuring dining options that have already proven popular among UT students. The restaurant will open up to a patio that includes more exterior gathering space.

One classroom and a set of offices will be converted into two informal learning lounges that will provide places for students to work and collaborate with each other and instructors between classes. These new spaces were developed and designed primarily by architecture and interior design students and faculty.

“We want to give students a reason to stay in the building,” said Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for facilities services. “The longer they stay, the more they talk and socialize. We want to provide a richer, deeper social experience.”

The restoration and patio will cost close to $4 million, which is funded through student facilities fees. The Aramark facility is separately funded.

“This renovation uses student fees to invest in student learning, which is central to a university,” Dunne said.

The Humanities and Social Sciences Building hasn’t been touched since 1976, except for new paint and furniture about eleven years ago.

The building will get upgraded technology, such as wall-mounted interactive white boards, and high-definition video capability.This is expected to enhance the way instructors teach. Additionally, the wireless network will be much more robust in the building through an Office of Information Technology-directed upgrade.

The Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center has set up a classroom in Hodges Library, with the support of University Libraries, that mimics one of the new HSS classrooms. They are already hosting workshops to help instructors learn how to use the new technology and tools they’ll encounter in HSS. The workshops will continue through the spring and into the summer.