By Jade McClain —
Cramped classrooms, outdated equipment and peeling walls mark the end of an era for the School of Communication and Information (SC&I) as plans for a new $95 million technology-driven building take root.
The Journalism and Media Studies Department will have a dazzling new home within that new structure. So will the Daily Targum and radio station WRSU.
With over 1,800 undergraduate students and 200 faculty members, the school has struggled for years to accommodate the expanding population, as evidenced by the sprawl of several SC&I annex buildings on College Avenue campus.
“We’ve far outgrown the building; the building itself has aged, and it may be at the end of its usefulness,” said Jorge Schement, dean of the School of Communication and Information. “But we not only need a new building, we also have a new idea for what it means to study communication and information at Rutgers, and the existing building is not part of that new concept.”
Aspects of the new edifice include collaborative workspaces, podcasting studios and multimedia production facilities, a 500-student classroom, and additional offices for faculty members and doctoral candidates. It would also become the new home to the RU-Info Call Center, the Edison Papers Project and several media outlets such as RU-tv. These are currently scattered throughout the Rutgers campuses.
Cannon Design, the New York-based architectural firm at the helm of this project, conducted a feasibility study for the university and sorted through various designs and locations before concrete decisions were made. The projected site is on the triangular plot of land enclosed by College Avenue, and George and Huntington streets. It is across the street from the existing SC&I Building.
“It’s been a long process and a lot of talking,” said Karen Novick, associate dean for the School of Communication and Information. “We’ve done focus groups with faculty, with staff, and students at all levels.”
Sheena Raja, a third year student in the Ph.D. program at SC&I, was one of 20 individuals on the planning committee. “Meetings started last autumn,” she reported. “As the monthly meetings progressed, we prioritized, and the firm translated our feedback into actual blueprints and 3D models,” Raja said. She and her colleagues are thrilled about the plans.
“It’s a place I have been craving, something that is easily accessible for everyone working and taking classes in the new SC&I building, where sunlight, conversation and caffeine will be bountiful!”
Novick said that the university is exploring a few funding models for the costly project, ideally hoping for a piece of the proposed academic building bond issue that may be on the November state ballot. There has not been a higher education facilities bond issue in New Jersey since 1988. Novick also cited loans and alumni contributions as other potential sources of funding.
“One of the exciting parts of this project is that it creates a definition and a bookend for this end of campus that helps define the campus,” Novick said. “Our perspective is that we’re the lens into the future, this school, and so it’s a really meaningful end of the campus.”