Learning Commons Opens on Campus

Bridgewater College Faculty Envision the Possibilities for the Learning Commons


Brooke DiCicco

Pictured at the circulation desk is Shay Kelly, help desk operator for the IT Center

Laraya Billups, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – The opening of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons on Feb. 24 attracted the attention of many faculty and administration members who expressed the possibility of greater student success through the amenities of the brand new facility.

The John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, funded through charitable donations, opened at 1 p.m. to the public. According to Anne Keeler, vice president for finance and treasurer, opening the learning commons involved multiple people working together to serve the students. 

“This project was one of the biggest team efforts in my time here,” said Keeler. 

The learning commons contains three floors with multiple study spaces for students, allowing for more space for student services such as the digital scholarship gurus, the writing center and academic coaching. 

Instructional Designer Emily Goodwin said, “I think that the building has exceeded student expectations. It seems like students are loving it, they are walking around, looking amazed at what the college has provided for them.”

Director of Information Technology Kristy Rhea said, “What was amazing was seeing the anticipation of everybody waiting outside. In all the openings I’ve seen before, we’ve never had a response like that. It was good to see everyone getting so excited about the building.”

Alice Trupe, professor of English and director of the writing center, hopes to see growth in the number of students utilizing the writing center in the new facility.

“Our space is a lot more flexible now,” said Trupe. “We have a central location, but all kinds of spaces for one on ones for students, so now we can offer more special, informative sessions about APA and MLA format.”

Along with Trupe, John Manson, the director of student outreach services, said there were “great locations” for student growth as well as for academic enrichment. 

“The Eagles’ Nest used to be crowded for academic tutoring,” said Manson. “Now there are different locations for study groups.”

The study spaces in the new learning commons are geared not only toward independent studying, but also toward collaborative work between students.

“There’s also more technology options for students who need the technology to be successful,” said Karie Dornon, associate professor of economics and business. 

In the future, the learning commons will also hold events to highlight student creativity. DeAndre Powell, assistant director of diversity education and advocacy, aims to use some of the space in the learning commons to showcase student talent.

“We would love to display visual and musical art in the gallery on the second floor,” said Powell. “There are different ways that this space can be used.”

According to many faculty members and the administration, the learning commons has exceeded expectations. There will be minor construction over the summer on the infrastructure of the learning commons, but it is not “on anything that will affect students or that students will notice,” according to President Bushman. 

Bushman is “happy for the students and faculty” and is excited for students to utilize the new space.“This learning commons wasn’t for me or for the donors,” said Bushman, “It has always been for the students.”