Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, April 1, 2011

North Quad invites the community in to see how the magic is made

Visitors who filled the dining hall of the North Quadrangle Residential and Academic Complex on Thursday afternoon learned that U-M's newest living-learning center has a nickname. Students have taken to calling it "North Hog," LSA Dean Terrence McDonald said.

"Hog" as in Hogwarts, the mythical college where Harry Potter and his friends unravel the mysteries of magic. "North Quad is going to be a place of magic," McDonald said. "All the technological provisions are here to do magical things."

  Visitors to the North Quad Community Open House tour the collaboration space in Room 2435, with its high-definition video screens and floor-to-ceiling text crawls. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

Those magical things were on display as hundreds of visitors toured the classrooms, technology and residential facilities during the quad's Community Open House. It was an opportunity for them to get an up-close look at the home of 450 upper-level undergraduate students and a new hub for learning and collaboration.

Students, alumni, faculty and staff, and members of the greater Ann Arbor community marveled at the building, which blends the archways, hardwood accents and red-brick-and-stone architecture of a traditional collegiate style — sort of a Hogwarts feel, if you will — with ultra-modern technology in classrooms and common spaces.

"I think it's an absolutely spectacular building," said Steve Burling, senior technology wrangler and software developer for the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. He and his wife, Deborah, were watching digital text announcements crawl along screens that ran up walls and across the ceiling of Room 2435.

"I look at this building and I think, when the university puts a building up they expect it to be here 200 years from now. That's the way this building sort of feels to me, something they expect will still be here, still be useful, 200 years from now," Burling said.

Standing in the production studios of the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, alumna Sandra Eidelman said she was impressed with the variety of computers and technology she saw throughout the quad. A retired math teacher from Huntington Woods, Eidelman came to the open house with her husband, Alan, after receiving an alumni email invitation.

"I haven't seen a new dorm since they built (Mary) Markley (Hall)," she said, laughing. "It's pretty phenomenal. I love it. I love the way they use the dark wood to make you feel like there's some continuity. It's a wonderful facility."

Lillian Simms, associate professor emerita in the School of Nursing and a U-M alumna, said she was struck by the idea of students living and learning in the same location.

"It reminds me of Couzens Hall, where I lived as a student nurse, which really was a student residence with many of the same ideas as here. We're finally getting back to that same idea of living where you study," she said. "I still keep in touch with my Class of '52 classmates — that's how close we were — and I suspect the students who live here will feel the same way about the people they live with here."

In a program welcoming the visitors, President Mary Sue Coleman said the new complex will help students prepare for a world interconnected by technology and communication, pursue scholarship that stretches across multiple academic disciplines, and develop leadership skills.

"What I particularly love about this building is how it puts into action so many of our priorities as a university. It is so much more than classrooms and bedrooms," Coleman said. "The remarkable physical space, the range of academic programs, the impressive technology, and most important, the people who choose to live, learn and work here make North Quad a unique academic village."

Regent Julia Donovan Darlow, chair of the Board of Regents, highlighted several students and the work they are pursuing, projects enabled by the technology and global focus of North Quad.

"Even with all that was promised about this unique living and learning environment, it isn't until seeing North Quad for the first time — and hearing some of what goes on here — that you fully can appreciate its potential," Darlow said.

Provost Phil Hanlon offered insight into how various university constituencies worked to make North Quad a reality, and Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, dean of the School of Information housed in the complex, outlined the array of technology available to students and faculty.

"This is a great opportunity to bring faculty and students closer together in the structured and informal connections that occur every day. Here, the intellectual and social development of students extends beyond traditional classrooms and community spaces, and even beyond the boundaries of campus," said E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs.

The program ended on a multicultural note as Margaret Noori, director of the Comprehensive Studies Program, and a group of students led the crowd in a rendition of "The Victors" in the Ojibwe language.