By Jared Fields, Managing Editor
The second and third floors of the Don H. Morris Center will receive a complete makeover beginning in May to make room for a multimedia newsroom for student media publications like the Optimist and the Prickly Pear to use.
Dr. Susan Lewis, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication while Dr. Cheryl Bacon is on sabbatical, said the newsroom will be unlike any college’s newsroom.
“The reason it’s cool is because it’s multimedia. All different types of media can come together and produce something that’s richer than any of the outlets can do on its own,” Lewis said. “We don’t know of any universities that are doing it exactly like this.”
While students break-in the new newsroom, faculty in the department will be out of their offices in the fall, using spare rooms as interim offices.
“We acquired some space in Chambers thanks to the English Department,” Lewis said. “Others are sprinkled through the Don Morris Building. I think the inconvenience is going to be worth it.”
The department will only offer Publication Design during Maymester while construction progresses over the summer.
Art and interior design students and faculty will also be displaced, or enjoying new rooms, depending on how construction goes. The interior design program’s labs are also on the second floor and will receive the same treatment as their journalism neighbors.
If construction is not finished by the first week of school, the interior design program will have to come up with a backup plan for the five classes that use specific computer programs.
“We are looking for options because you never can plan for the best scenario; you can only plan for the worst scenarios,” said Kitty Wasemiller, professor of art and design.
When the floor is complete, however, the rooms can be used for galleries and critiques.
“The new lecture room would allow us to move the furniture out with ease,” Wasemiller said. “It gives us the option in the future to turn it into a lighting lab.”
Jack Harkin, partner in charge of the project for the Tittle Luther Partnership, which is the architecture firm working on the renovation, said working within the confines of the building has posed the biggest test.
“Probably the biggest challenges were that we’re limited to the quantity of space that’s there,” Harkin said. “Obviously they’d like to have more space if they just had it.”
The newsroom will cost about $1.1 million, of which a majority came from the Shelton Family Foundation.
Aside from the newsroom, a balcony will be added on the second floor and a new stairwell to lead directly to the room.
Besides computers, a small TV news set will also be in the newsroom.
“It’s a cool space where students can work and learn across media outlets,” Lewis said.