Books, brains and bodies add life to Monninger Center
Sophomore Winifred Ajaegbo (right) gets to work in the new study space at the John and Joan Monninger Center Center for Learning and Research at the College at Florham. Study space is available on both the top and bottom floors of the building. (Photos by W. Scott Giglio)
By Kenna Caprio
There’s officially a new building on the block at the College at Florham and the Fairleigh Dickinson University community is abuzz.
Since opening in the first week of the 2013 spring semester, occupants and visitors alike have marveled at the new academic space in the John and Joan Monninger Center for Learning and Research.
“It’s not so cramped,” says Cory Tuttle, a pre-pharmacy sophomore as he works in the Center. “It seems like it’s easier to move around and lounge. There’s more space to study and to get more quiet time that you can’t always get at the dorms.”
The Monninger Center, which is attached to the library, encompasses 20,000 square feet of new construction plus 7,500 square feet of renovations in the original library building and Orangerie. Offices for the College Writing Program faculty and Academic Support Center staff, six additional classrooms, open space for studying and tutoring, and two lounge areas are all located in the new building.
“It’s been a ‘wow’ factor for the kids,” says Pat Geehr, director Academic Support Center.
Moving from the basement of Twombly Residence Hall and into the new Monninger offices has been a 180-degree turn for the Academic Support Center staff.
In the old location, Geehr always wished for more visibility. “If we were more visible, I thought we could have walk-in hours,” she says. “Now, we can post a sign and say, ‘Walk-in hours are from 2-4 p.m.’ and they’ll see it. We want to reach as many kids as we can.”
The librarians are enjoying their new and updated digs, including an all-new reference/circulation room in the old reference room and a new office suite in the former circulation room, too.
At the circulation desk, it’s a relief to have laptops close by. “We used to have to keep laptops in the closet and had to hike on over when students requested them,” says Maria Webb, associate University librarian and director of public services. “But now, laptops are locked in the cart at the circulation desk. It’s a major convenience.” Webb calls the new location for circulation and reference welcoming. “The reference room just looks so good,” she says. “We used to have the original drapes from the 1960s hanging up. The anti-UV glare was peeling off the window. We were long overdue for an update.”
One technology update allows College Writing, Academic Support and the library to stay in close communication: intercoms.
“The Monninger space draws students into a kind of study and research triangle. The College Writing Program, Academic Support Center and library are all important places,” says Kathryn Douglas, director, College Writing Program. “Students need to link up with support services and understand how to get work done and Monninger makes this possible.”
Most students are finding their way to all of the new offices just fine. The College Writing offices used to be scattered all over Hennessy Hall.
“New office arrangements have already made a difference,” says Douglas. “Professional conversation has been made easy: we are bumping into each other, sharing ideas and making plans.”
Bright and open new office space, plus conference, tutoring and seminar rooms, heighten the visibility of the College Writing Program and Academic Support Center.
Faculty and staff will also find it easier to facilitate group sessions and classes in the new building. Both “smart” seminar rooms offer the capability to record and archive sessions, allowing for review later. The 80” touch panel can also serve as a white board and will save the information written on it. The rooms also have complete connectivity abilities including ITV-Interactive Television, similar to video conferencing.
“So many faculty like that seminar-style set-up, sitting around in a circle. They’ve said, ‘I want to reserve those,’” says Webb.
An under-the-radar favorite of Webb’s is the water fountain, which has “green” capabilities and digitally tracks just how many plastic water bottles users have saved from landfills by refilling their reusable containers.
For students, though, it’s all about the built-in outlets in the study tables. “It’s perfect to get work done with the outlets and because it’s quiet,” says Amanda Bal, a sophomore and business management major.
Soaring ceilings, large study tables and walls of natural light add to the positive reactions from students.
“I like how much space there is. It’s so open,” says Allison Langenohl, a sophomore and communication major. “There’s space for group work.”
Just about a month into the new semester, students are making great use of that space. “The study areas are packed,” reports Douglas. “Students are working in groups, but also independently, sharing spaces both with friends and with strangers. The way the study spaces have been engineered draws students together in new ways.”
On a Tuesday in February, junior and chemistry major Jermaine Dunbar works next to Tuttle in the reference/circulation room.
He likes the new study areas, including this one. Looking forward a few months Dunbar says, “During finals we’re all trying to cooperate. In the nice quiet areas, you won’t be bothered. It’s a chance to study properly.”
Everywhere Webb turns she sees enthusiasm and excitement in the new building.
“You can already see just how many more students are studying even when the library is already closed,” says Webb.
Extended, late hours for the library and Monninger Center common areas start on Sunday, Feb. 24. Sunday through Thursday, the buildings will be open until 2 a.m., says Webb.
“We’re just excited for students to sit down and study,” says Webb.
A generous gift of $1 million from Florham alum John Monninger, BS'65, and his wife, Joan, enabled the University to build the Center.
“(The building) celebrates the Florham campus' heart and reaffirms the soul,” says Interim President Sheldon Drucker at the opening reception on Jan. 30 as he raises his glass to toast the Monningers. “The building is more than bricks and mortar.”