By Song My Hoang
Union officially opens its latest renovation this winter: Karp Hall. The Humanities Building, now Karp Hall, opened in 1965 and has been the most heavily used academic building at Union.
Karp Hall was a lead gift from the Karp Family Foundation and its cost was an approximate total of $5.5 million.
Karp Hall is home to the English and Modern Languages and Literatures Departments.
The building marks Union’s commitment to the humanities. It emphasizes Union’s goal to connect the humanities to the technological advancements of the 21st century.
Dean of Academic Planning and Resources Nic Zarrelli ’97 stated, “The design of the building emphasizes the humanities and how relevant it is in this world.”
He continued that, from an academic standpoint, “the building brings state-of-the art teaching spaces to the campus and allows a flexible teaching environment. It is transformative because faculty across all departments use this new, technological space.”
Dean Zarrelli explained that, from a student perspective, “Karp Hall provides a great way for students and faculty members to interact together.”
According to Director of Learning Technologies and Environments Denise Snyder, Karp Hall includes several fully electronic classrooms, a seminar room, a performance classroom and a collaborative computer classroom.
The performance classroom has cameras and microphone equipment installed that enables faculty and students to use web conferencing software to facilitate effective real-time collaboration.
Snyder commented that the installation of this new equipment can provide synchronous collaboration between a Union classroom and remote classroom at another institution — even one in a foreign country, if desired.
It also will be a space for the Union community to hold events.
Union aims to find creative methods to give students more resources and allow them to improve their studies.
For example, Information Technology Services just concluded a one-year-long pilot program, with “lecture-capture” software called Panopto, with several faculty members.
“Union College is a small liberal arts college that is embracing these lecture-capture technologies to reinforce and supplement the activities faculty are doing in our face-to-face classrooms. For example, faculty can record short answers to a commonly asked question coming up in office hours once and post it online for all students to access.” Snyder said.
Capturing lectures can provide useful study aides for students to review as needed for tests and finals.
Snyder gave an example of how Union students in language courses can utilize this new technology to record themselves speaking and get feedback from the instructor to improve their skills.
Some faculty members have leveraged lecture-capture technology to record student presentations and review the recordings to find areas for improvement. She shared that students in the pilot have responded positively to this lecture-capture technology.
The building is designed with small collaborative alcoves throughout the building, including one larger alcove outside of the performance classroom.
People will be able to move the furniture in the alcoves to facilitate poetry or dramatic readings.
“This flexible learning environment allows you to combine spaces in a unique way that wasn’t available before the renovations,” she noted.
Snyder shared that these spaces could be thought of as “little Learning Commons labs” — an extension of the Learning Commons area located on the first floor of Schaffer Library. It is a “satellite Learning Commons for students to learn and collaborate.”
Karp Hall affirms Union’s appreciation of the humanities and its continual goal to enhance students’ learning.