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New NMSU undergraduate center boasts newest technology, student-friendly areas

Gone are the days when students at New Mexico State University had to wait out in the sun, snow or rain for classes at Hardman Hall and Jacobs Hall, or made due without cellphone service and with a weak Wi-Fi signal once inside.

Several classrooms inside the Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center boast state-of-the-art technology and innovative classroom features, such as large monitors controlled by professors and high-speed Wi-Fi. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Work on the Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center continues while the first classes in the building began Wednesday, the first day of the fall semester. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

In place of both buildings stands the newly-renovated Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center, which boasts classrooms outfitted with the latest learning technologies and high-speed Wi-Fi, and comfortable areas where students can wait for classes, study or work on projects.

Although construction inside and outside of the building is ongoing, the north side of building has a temporary certificate of occupancy that allowed for classes to begin on schedule Wednesday, the first day of the fall semester.

?Construction crews have been working steadily to make this happen, and they will continue to work in the building to complete the south portion where (Information & Communication Technologies) will be,? said Greg Walke, university architect and campus planning officer for NMSU. ?Exterior work will continue through the fall, especially in the area of McFie Circle on the east side of the building, where the first phase of a major new campus green space will be constructed.?

The total project cost was $22.25 million, funded with $19 million from the 2012 General Obligation Bonds approved by New Mexico taxpayers, and $3.25 million from a 2013 Severance Tax Bond appropriation from the New Mexico legislature.

In addition to the nearly 48,000 square-foot Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center, the total appropriation included improvements to the surrounding infrastructure, exterior site work, landscaping and one percent for art.

Work on the building began immediately after the bond issue was approved in November 2012. Architects Dekker/Perich/Sabatini were selected to work on the project, and the building contract was awarded to Bradbury Stamm Construction, Inc. Construction began in July 2014 and has taken just over a year to complete, including the demolition of the original Jacobs Hall and much of the original Hardman Hall.

Walke said Hardman and Jacobs house six classrooms of various sizes that are centrally scheduled and used for many of the university?s core curriculum classes and larger classes. Most undergraduates will take at least some courses in the undergraduate learning center during their student careers.
Hardman and Jacobs also house the Student Success Center, which includes TRiO Student Support Services and TRiO Upward Bound, and Information & Communications Technology, which includes a Help Desk, computer labs, a drop-in computer center, computer rentals and computer offices and workshops.

?The building features a number of classrooms that can be configured in many different ways to allow flexibility in teaching methods,? Walke said. ?One new feature will be several Technology Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms, also known as ?Scale-Up Classrooms,? where small groups of students can work together on projects within the context of the larger classroom. Each group is connected via the latest technology with the instructors and the other groups in the class. Other classrooms appear like standard lecture halls, but they have been provided with the space and technology to allow for active learning and other current teaching methods.?

Tony Marin, NMSU director of student affairs, said he?s impressed with the building and the benefits it provides. Marin said during construction, the Student Success Center had to be housed on a couple of different areas on campus that didn?t provide an optimal experience for working with students seeking assistance.

Now, Marin said, the Student Success Center has office areas that allow for more areas for students to receive academic support from staff.

?It?s a better environment to learn,? Marin said. ?The space we have here is innovative, and the technology has been enhanced tremendously. We have more space to work with students, and students have an additional on-campus option to print their papers and work on projects. The Hardman and Jacobs Undergraduate Learning Center was built with the latest technology and building standards and that allows us to better serve our students both in and outside of the classroom.?
Hugo Perez, an assistant professor of journalism at NMSU and a 1993 NMSU graduate, said he?s seen the university grow over the last 20 years.

?I?ve seen the university grow so much. I remember when Zuhl Library was built. I remember when the Science Hall was built. I remember when the Health Sciences building went up. I think when students and their parents and faculty from other parts of the country, when they see there is growth, they are more attracted the university.?

Walke said the building itself can play a role in helping students to get the most out of their classroom experience.

?Experience at other universities has shown the active learning concept to be especially helpful in increasing student involvement and student success,? Walke said. ?The incorporation of new classroom technologies and the accommodation of new teaching methods will mean a great improvement in the quality of the learning experience and will result in greater retention rates and graduation rates.?