TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING

By Chanapa Tantibanchachai and Annalisa Purser

The University of Utah will announce a new five-year, $200 million initiative to promote student success at the grand reopening of the U’s Sterling Sill Center, on Sept. 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Originally built in 1952, the Sterling Sill Center was one of the first buildings to house a residential living and learning community. It was the vision of Virginia Cutler, then chair of the U’s Home Economics Department, who wanted to create a place where home economics majors could have a capstone educational experience. Originally, the building housed a small group of students for a semester in a simulated household where they applied the theory learned in the classroom to real-life tasks, including budgeting, meal planning, upholstery, weaving, entertaining and more.

Dr. Cutler Teaching

Dr. Virginia Cutler teaching

“Throughout the process of renovating this building, we have sought to harmonize the historic preservation of the Sill Center with contemporary notions of social responsibility, such as living and being in a world facing limited resources, valuing opportunities for conservation over destruction and seeking to learn from the past and projecting into the future a respect for the natural world and its systems,” said Martha Bradley-Evans, senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs.

While the building maintains its midcentury architecture, the solar panels on the roof, an experimental student garden complete with a weather station, a prototype Ice Ball cooling system and lounge spaces for student brainstorming sessions and collaboration give the site new life and relevancy to the modern world.

The Student Success Initiative to be announced at the grand reopening is a further extension of the center’s vision and purpose; the $200 million campaign will support projects in three areas of focus:

  1. Scholarships and fellowships
  2. Living and learning communities
  3. Transformative learning experiences

Examples of the types of activities to be supported through the initiative include: scholarships for access, achievement and completion; Capstone Initiatives; the MUSE Project (My U Signature Experience); LEAP; Student Success Advocates; Beacon Scholars; Diversity Scholars; learning abroad; national and international internships; service learning and more. Each of these programs exists to provide students with deeply engaged, hands-on, experiential learning and community involvement opportunities.

For example, LEAP encourages the formation of a learning community by offering classes where students and professors remain together through multiple semesters. Another program, Capstone Initiatives, helps students design a one- or two-semester-long project in which they integrate the knowledge and skills they’ve accumulated throughout their undergraduate careers to a project with a real-world application.

Other goals the university hopes to achieve as part of the initiative are enabling more students to learn and live on campus; replacing Orson Spencer Hall with a new learning center (with a student welcome center within it); creating a child development center including affordable onsite child care and education programs; creating more interdisciplinary science labs; and creating a new home for the theater, film and media arts programs.

At the grand reopening event, a number of students involved in these groups will present about their accomplishments from 1:45-4 p.m. Just before that, a panel of former Sill Family Home Living Center residents will share their memories of living in the building and attending the U in the 1950s.

 

Chanapa Tantibanchachai is an associate science writer at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at chanapa.t@utah.edu.

Annalisa Purser is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at annalisa.purser@utah.edu.