Wednesday, December 7, 2005
As I am writing this, the facilities staff is completing some of the finishing touches on our new suite. Whittier Law School now calls us its Institute for Student and Graduate Academic Support, and has housed us in the main Administration building across the hall from the Dean's suite. It got me reflecting on the implications for academic support of a new and different office space. There are advantages and disadvantages.
An obvious advantage is newness – the freshness of new surroundings is infectious – both among the ASP faculty, and among the students. Every student to come in since I moved on Monday has commented on how nice and new everything looks.
Another advantage is convenience for the students. All the ASP faculty are in one place – I as Director, and the five other ASP faculty can more easily confer and be available; so if a student needs a resource that one of us has, we can get it to the student more quickly. In addition, students now know there is one stop shopping for academic support.
Another advantage is just the environment: we have an open space, with sofas and easy chairs, ringed by our offices. We have nice pictures to hang (largely the many jigsaw puzzles of Monet and Escher prints that my daughter and I put together, glued, framed and hung) and a relaxing, inviting atmosphere for students. Moreover, because as Associate Dean and Director, I got to "decorate" the suite, I was able to include interesting photographs – one from our 10th wedding anniversary in 1996 having dinner with George and Barbara Bush, and the other a picture of my late father-in-law with Whittier College's most famous alumnus, and my former San Clemente neighbor (the first and only reference to President Nixon, who attended Whittier College and Duke Law School, on the entire Law School campus).
Disadvantages? I feel isolated from the rest of the faculty – I am now in a separate building from them. I miss the give and take discussions that came more easily when they were a few steps away. I am also concerned that it will be harder to work together as a community of faculty with this physical separation.
Still, in the end, this is about facilitating student learning; and I think the new, more student-friendly surroundings present more advantages than disadvantages. I look forward to discovering if that is true. (mwm)