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Clemson Builds for Academic Excellence

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This fall, industrial engineering students who have been scattered across the Clemson University campus will have a unified home in a 24,000-square-foot Freeman Hall addition. It is a new kind of academic building designed to encourage collaboration, develop leaders and spark big ideas.

A number of new and renovated academic facilities will soon emerge from behind construction fences as Clemson prepares for its next 50 years. The Freeman addition, along with the Watt Family Innovation Center opening in 2016, are examples of smart buildings equipped architecturally and technologically to provide the leading-edge academic experience expected at a top national public research university.

Industrial engineering graduate students formerly crammed into windowless rooms spread across two floors of Freeman Hall, originally built in 1926, now will have open, sunlit work spaces directly across the hall from faculty mentors in the Freeman addition. An easily accessible ground-floor auditorium will accommodate undergraduate classes that have had to meet hither and yon across the campus wherever large rooms are available.

Large collaborative spaces in the Freeman addition will provide a learning environment that fosters the creative thinking skills industrial engineers need in critical fields such as manufacturing and health care, says Mary Beth Kurz, an associate professor of industrial engineering.

The facility will put Clemson’s industrial engineering program “on the map nationally,” says Robert H. Jones, Clemson provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Industrial engineers are “at the forefront” in developing efficiencies and cost controls to enable domestic manufacturers to compete with cheap labor overseas, and Clemson graduates can help position South Carolina, along with the nation, as a global manufacturing giant, Jones says.

While the Freeman Hall addition is dedicated to industrial engineering, the Watt Family Innovation Center will enhance collaborative creativity across all disciplines.

“Watt will be in the center of stimulating conversations, collaborations, research and teaching,” says David Blakesley, professor of English, Campbell Chair in Technical Communication and co-director of Clemson’s Center of Excellence in Next Generation Computing and Creativity.

Watt Family Innovation Center rending at Clemson Univesrity, Clemson, SCFlexible walls, moveable floors, sensors and a command center will make the Watt Family Innovation Center smarter than smart. It will be “a world class, high-tech learning facility right on the cutting-edge of new technologies,” Jones says. Here, students and faculty “can explore the interface of new technologies and learning,” experiment with integration of these technologies, publish and share their results and then start over as new technologies emerge.

“Now we will have a whole building that is designed to work across disciplines,” Blakesley says. The center will encourage “the kind of collaborative, productive learning that students need to be prepared for the digital economy,” Blakesley continues. “And when people from across disciplines come together to solve problems across fields, great things can happen.”

Additional academic facilities coming online as Clemson builds for its future include an expanded Calhoun Honors College and an Advanced Technological Education Center to strengthen the STEM career pipeline. Vickery Hall renovations will create an undergraduate advising centerpiece, and renovations to Daniel Hall will revive a “worn-down” building at the heart of Clemson’s teaching mission, according to Provost Jones.

A high-priority building to house business programs is still in the conceptual stage. Jones believe it will be a crown jewel for Clemson’s second largest college, with trading rooms, collaborative areas and other amenities to take the University’s graduate and undergraduate business programs on to even greater national prominence.