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Thousands of students return to a renovated Lincoln Hall.
After a four-year pause for a much-needed building renovation, students at the University of Illinois are once again heading to Lincoln Hall for class.
Classes had been on hold at the historic building since fall 2008, when the University began scaling down operations there in anticipation of the renovation. But thousands of students have finally returned this fall, and most of them have never seen the building as anything other than a fenced-off construction zone.
Students warmed up to the new surroundings quickly as they worked on laptops in the main foyer between class, or, as in the case of sophomore Molly Block, found a niche in one of the courtyards that have been made much more inviting and accessible with new tables, benches, trees, plants, and tall windows.
“I just transferred to LAS from the business school, actually,” Block said, as she took a break from studying. “And I love the BIF [Business Instructional Facility], but I think this is my new favorite building.”
Block added that the anthropology class she attended in one of the smaller classrooms was “not too hot or cold, just about perfect,” attesting to the efficiency of new, individualized climate control systems throughout the building.
Climate control was just one of the issues resolved by the renovation, however. Lincoln Hall now contains 18 classrooms equipped with “smart” technology features for teaching assistance. Instead of being located on three floors, all classrooms are now located on the first floor in a new configuration that actually increases classroom space.
The Illinois state legislature approved funding for the renovation of Lincoln Hall in 2009, and work began in March 2010. Faculty and staff began returning to the building this summer.
Kira Varava, a graduate student in the Department of Communication, recalls Lincoln Hall before it was renovated. She remembers peeling paint, the “creepy basement,” and the “confusing fourth floor.” Now she’s a teaching assistant in the same building, and she’s thrilled with the new labs, teaching equipment, and space that she believes makes Lincoln Hall a much better learning environment than in the past.
“The overall feel of the building is incredibly inviting and modern, but I love that they kept many of the old Lincoln Hall fixtures,” Varava says. “The building is now updated but still has the charm that it had before.”
It also remains just as busy. Lincoln Hall is hosting a variety of classes as it becomes one of the busiest classroom buildings on campus. More than 12,800 students in 230 separate course sections are attending class in the historic building this fall.
The upper floors of Lincoln Hall now contain assorted office space for the Departments of Communication and Sociology, the Office of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, LAS Student Academic Affairs, and Applied Technologies for Learning in the Arts and Sciences (ATLAS).
Soo Ah Kwon, professor of Asian American studies and human and community development, never before taught in Lincoln Hall, but she has been at the center of the buzz. Her first class—“Introduction to Asian American Studies,” with 250 students—was the first to be held in Lincoln Hall Theater since the renovation. Her first day was covered by the local news media and she’s seen curious onlookers poke their heads into the renovated theater.
“It is a great treat to be able to teach there this semester,” she says. “It is beautifully restored and everything seems to be in top shape.”
An open house for Lincoln Hall, including guided tours and a visit by the Marching Illini, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27, during Homecoming. For more information about the renovation, visit www.lincolnhall.illinois.edu/events.
By Dave Evensen
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