Flint, MI—Students filled the spaces of Kettering University’s Learning Commons, studying for their finals at the end of the summer semester. Scholars scribbled math formulas on whiteboards and worked together in collaboration spaces, or d.spaces, while guests from the Learning Commons’ grand opening ceremony peered through the rooms’ glass walls, taking a closer look at the new building’s interior design.
In one of the d.spaces, Elena Pizaña was joined by fellow students as she studied for her upcoming pre-calculus final. Pizaña, a first-year student majoring in general engineering, noted that the Learning Commons is a great place for the community.
“It’s a safe space for students to go and study,” Pizaña said. “It’s quiet. Kids can concentrate. There’s many different spaces. It’s spacious.”
Pizaña’s friend Daisy Putnam agreed, explaining that the Learning Commons offers more options on campus for studying.
“I think it’s pretty nice,” said Putnam, a first-year student majoring in chemical engineering. “Both my aunt and my mom came here, and they didn’t have this. Most of the time, everyone was trying to find the same space to study, whereas here, there’s a lot more room for everyone to go.”
While Kettering soft-launched the Learning Commons for the summer semester in July 2022, the university held the official grand opening ceremony of the $63 million building on Sept. 23, 2022. The Learning Commons, funded by gifts, is the first new building on campus in 20 years, according to university officials. The 105,000-square-foot Learning Commons serves as Kettering’s centerpiece for social and academic life, and it includes d.spaces, a 200-seat auditorium, a meditation room, dining facilities, an art gallery and a guest suite, among other features.
During a tour of the building, Kettering President Dr. Robert McMahan explained that the Learning Commons embodies the environment of a museum building. He said the Learning Commons is a place of fluidity, encouraging collaboration among students and faculty.
“You make it high quality, but not precious,” McMahan told reporters. “You make something that is really beautiful, but you don’t say to people, ‘Don’t touch it. Don’t move the table. Don’t move the chairs.’”
He continued, “Make it work for what you are doing at this moment.”
For Jack Waker, a first-year student majoring in electrical engineering, the Learning Commons is a place for him to key in on the task at hand, and on Sept. 23, 2022, Waker was concentrating on preparing for his calculus and chemistry finals.
“Sometimes, the dorms can be chaotic,” Waker said, noting that “if I get in here, then I’m focused on getting done what I have to. Especially with all the whiteboard space, that’s so nice for doing math homework and not having to worry about writing on paper.”
Waker is living back home for the fall semester as he pursues a co-op. Both Pizaña and Putnam are rotating from classes to their co-ops as well. In the meantime, Hemanth Tadepalli, a senior majoring in computer science, is returning for classes on campus in the fall semester. Tadepalli worked from home during the summer semester for his co-op, and he is eager to spend time on campus. The fall semester is Tadepalli’s first with access to the Learning Commons, just as it is for other students who were off-campus for co-ops last semester.
“This building’s going to be home for many students … because of the things that it provides,” Tadepalli said. He added, “It’s a place for students to come together, learn together, grow together.”