Building Better Connections

From Kennedy Hall to Mann Library Building and into the future

Phase one of the new home: clearing the space.

For many years, we did great work at Kennedy Hall; yet much of that work was done in spite of the venue, not empowered by it. Symmetrical rows of offices made sense in the 20th century, but the 21st century demanded something different. Breaking down barriers to innovative research began with breaking down some physical barriers in the Department.

Professor Natalie Bazarova meets with students in The Hub. The work station is equipped with a large-screen monitor and computer connection. The surrounding wall is movable, to provide privacy and flexibility.

With its open, light, and modern aesthetics, our new space on the fourth floor of Mann Library provides a tour de force of communication, technology, and collaboration. All hallways lead to The Hub—the focal point of the design and a favorite meeting place. The Hub is equipped with moveable workspaces, technology, and a grand “family table,” which invite spontaneous interaction and collaboration. Graduate student offices are arranged into “neighborhoods” along a corridor intersecting The Hub and surrounded by faculty offices and research labs. Stationed in the center of the department and along hallways lined with open faculty offices are research labs, whose centrality and accessibility allow scholars to work more effectively together in ongoing research efforts. In addition to dedicated laboratories, there are several “flex” research spaces and “touchdown” spaces that afford ad-hoc teams the opportunity to collaborate at a moment’s notice.

The boardroom was designed with cutting-edge technology to allow for faculty to work closely with colleagues around the world. In spring 2016, Professor Dawn Schrader is teaching COMM 4300, Ethics in New Media, as part of the Cornell in Washington program. The class is attended by students in both Ithaca and D.C.; the boardroom technology allows Dawn to teach in both places simultaneously using Blackboard Collaborate.

Our new facilities have quickly become home: faculty and staff students gather around the family table or in touchdown spaces working on projects, and there is a steady flow of activity and collaboration in the department. Our new space is also ideal for presentations, lectures, and entertaining. In the few short months, since we moved into Mann Library, the department has hosted several Coffee Chats with faculty, Young Alumni Madness, a lecture, Major Mingle, graduate students’ Second-Year Projects, Graduate Student Recruitment Day, and a few social gatherings we call HobNobs in the Hub, including a meet & greet with our Mann Library neighbors.

To learn more about the thought processes behind our designs and the history of the project, please visit the “Move to Mann Chronicles,” Professor and Chair Katherine McComas's Tumblr blog.