New Special Assistant to the Provost Starts the Transition to OPENING the Convergence Center!

After what may seem like far too many updates about the status of construction of the Information and Technology Convergence Center, it’s time to shift attention to the moment many of us have eagerly anticipated – the opening of the building and the start of realizing all that it has to offer to the University. As previously announced, Dr. Jeffrey McClurken will serve as Special Assistant to the Provost for Technology, Teaching, and Innovation. Among his first tasks are to lead the transition of the Convergence Center from a construction project to a building operation and programming project. In preparation for this issue of the Newsletter, Jeff was asked to offer some of his initial thoughts about taking on his new role – read on to see what some of his early observations are related to his new position.

Reflecting on his initial steps in this new role, Jeff says that he sees the position as “representing UMW’s commitment to stay on the forefront of the integration of technology into teaching and learning in thoughtful, creative, academically rigorous, and student-centered ways.” A number of initial plans are in the works to further develop this commitment, and there’s more to come.

Among the tasks listed on the job description for this special assignment was partnering with the various units moving in to the Convergence Center in order ensure staffing of the Information Desk in the building. This will be the main information hub that will help users learn what’s available and to find their way around all the new spaces and resources. Jeff has already convened a group to begin the task of identifying how to arrange for the training of the student aides who will work at the Information Desk.

A process needs to be developed so that meeting spaces in the building (such as the group collaboration rooms and the seven conference rooms) may be easily scheduled by potential users. Jeff is a key member of a group that is pulling a plan together. Having good procedures for scheduling spaces is essential if we are to maximize the potential afforded by the new building. As Jeff has noted, the Convergence Center offers an opportunity for us to build on “UMW’s existing strengths, encouraging digital and analog teaching and learning resources on campus, facilitating innovation at the university, focusing UMW’s many efforts in the areas of teaching, technology, and innovation, making the most of our financial and institutional resources, and working with the university community to improve faculty success, staff development, and student learning, opportunities, and engagement.”

Until the University implements an enterprise room scheduling platform, Jeff will be responsible for scheduling the classrooms in the building, except for the Incubator Classroom, which will be managed by the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies. He is looking forward to testing the limits of the technology-enabled classrooms himself this fall for his own two courses. The new Digital Auditorium, because of its flexible design and multiplicity of uses, will need to have a unique scheduling process that recognizes and respects the variety of groups that might want to use the space. The Recording Studio and the training computer lab will also need specific scheduling protocols and processes. Approaches for scheduling the use of all these specialized spaces are under discussion and development.

And if that’s not enough, Jeff will work with the units in the Convergence Center to develop innovative collaborative teaching and technology initiatives for faculty and students, and he’ll also play a role in UMW’s distance learning program development (in connection with the Distance and Blended Learning Committee). Jeff says that he is “particularly excited about the opportunities for student, staff, and faculty engagement that the Convergence Center represents.  In bringing together the Speaking Center, Writing Center, DTLT (with the new Digital Knowledge Center), and the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, as well as the Help Desk and the Library, the ITCC serves as a ‘one-stop shop’ for members of the University to explore, learn, create, and grow.”

A number of other plans related to opening the building are taking shape, and other members of the Convergence Center Building Committee team are to be congratulated for stepping up to help facilitate the transition. Details like how to check out the portable AV equipment at the Information Desk, creation of opening day displays and open house programming, planning for the grand opening – these are just a few of the tasks in process. Rosemary Arneson, Christy Glancy, Martha Burtis, Andy Rush, Mary Kayler, Cedric Rucker, Gwen Hale, Anand Rao, and Nina Mikhalevsky all deserve hearty thanks for stepping up to help make sure we can open up on schedule.

Finally, it’s hard to imagine where this project would be without Len Shelton’s steady and persistent oversight of a myriad of details. The building is enormously complex, and Len had stayed on top of virtually every construction issue and task from excavating the foundation to buttoning up the roof. We owe him a big debt of gratitude for his constant and consistent project oversight.

Follow the progress on the Convergence Center as it gets closer and closer to opening day by viewing the webcam or reading the summaries of the latest developments, maintained at the Convergence Center tab on the Provost’s website.

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