KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo’s Main Building has not just been renovated—it has been transformed.
Thursday (April 14), IU President Michael A. McRobbie officially dedicated it, after $14 million of construction changed the campus’ first building into a 21st Century learning environment.
IU’s buildings are an important part of the university’s heritage, McRobbie said, and represent a “substantial investment by the people of Indiana.”
“New, expanded, and renovated facilities are essential to support IU’s missions of education, research, and the long-term preservation of knowledge,” McRobbie said. “They are critical to recruiting and retaining the best faculty, to ensuring that IU remains competitive in research and scholarship, and to providing a high-quality educational environment for students on all IU campuses.”
He noted that regional campuses like IU Kokomo enroll about one-third of IU’s students, providing an excellent education to 36,000 students per year, and expressed gratitude to local legislators who helped attain the state funding to make the renovation possible.
McRobbie also announced a gift of approximately $3.5 million from Chancellor Emerita Ruth J. Person. The “supremely generous gift” will fund the R-M-J Scholars Program, which will promote student success and graduation within four years for the recipients.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said that while the title “Main Building,” is simple, the meaning of the word main, “the most important building of a group of buildings,” captures the role it has played on campus.
“It has been and will continue to be the center of the learning environment,” she said. “Almost every student has taken at least one class in this building, and now it is the center of a 21st century learning environment. It has been completely transformed.”
When it opened in 1965, the Main Building was the only building on the new Washington Street campus, developed after what was then called the IU Extension Center outgrew its home in the Seiberling Mansion. Sciame-Giesecke said the new building represented “a major commitment by IU to the people of this region,” and reaffirmed President Herman B Wells’ belief in the importance of regional campuses. Since it opened, the campus has grown to six buildings, as well as a gym and art gallery downtown.
In 2016, she said, IU’s initial commitment to, and belief in the people of north central Indiana has never wavered.
“The renovation of this building is a major statement about our dedication to serving the people of north central Indiana for another 70 years, our commitment to ensure that everyone has access to a 21st century learning environment with high tech classrooms, new labs, and gathering spaces, to earn an Indiana University degree,” she said.
“The name of this building may be simple, but what happens in the building is not. Lives are transformed, dreams are realized, people are stretched, and degrees are earned.”
After the ceremony, guests, who included faculty, staff, alumni, county commissioners, state legislators, and members of the IU Board of Trustees, toured the Main Building, led by students.
Those touring saw the new limestone façade at the main entrance, as well as wider hallways, and stylish groupings of comfortable furniture, giving students a place to study and socialize between classes.
Student tour guide Mindy Puckett, from Hagerstown, said her favorite part of the new space is the second-floor student lounge. It features soft seating as well as tables and chairs, with a television and vending machines for quick snacks between classes.
“It’s a great place to study, much better than before,” she said.
At the front of the building, the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A) suite, including a large conference-style classroom, a meeting room, and a lounge, replaces administrative offices.
Donna Walden, who was part of the campus’ first graduating class in 1970, said if she hadn’t found the courtyard, she would not have known she was in the same building where she took her education classes. Her granddaughter, Emily Walden, who is a current IU Kokomo student, warned she might not recognize it.
“This is just mind-boggling,” she said. “It just doesn’t even look like the same building. Emily told me I would be amazed, and she was right.”
Donna Walden especially liked the new desks, which are on wheels, and have arms that move to either side, to accommodate both right- and left-handed students. Other classrooms have tables and chairs that fold down for easy storage, and are on wheels so instructors can move them for collaborative work.
Paul Cook, assistant professor of English, called the technology available in each classroom “stellar,” and said students like the new desks, which are large enough for their laptops.
He also appreciates the lounge spaces that provide students a place to study between classes.
“We have a lot of students who want to be on campus when they are not in class, and this building gives them that space,” he said. “I see many of them working on homework in the lounges.”
In the new food and nutrition lab, health sciences students served healthy snacks, including hummus, vegetables, and cookies made with whole grain flour and flaxseed, all prepared in the lab’s five fully stocked kitchens.
The lower level features a new math commons, a spacious room with tables available for tutoring and study, as well as math faculty offices.
New air handlers and boxes to control the climate in individual rooms create a more comfortable environment for faculty, staff, and students. The new equipment, as well as the windows, are energy efficient, to reduce usage and cost.