Campus News

Computer lab becomes learning commons

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Learning Commons 2Upon returning to campus this fall, Bethel College students discovered the newly constructed Katherine J. Gibbins Learning Commons, located in the lower level of the Miller-Moore Academic Center. Formerly known as the computer lab, the Katherine J. Gibbins Learning Commons project was completed during the course of the summer as a response to the needs of the students. Joel Boehner, director of student success, said the concept behind the learning commons was birthed last fall and developed as a result of two basic needs. Boehner said the first need was that the IT department recognized a need for a more useful, friendly environment which would be more conducive to learning. There was also a need for a more expedient method of delivering tutoring services to students. Boehner envisioned a space which would serve a myriad of functions and therefore be useful to the entire student body. Boehner said that he collaborated with many other individuals and departments to help make the Learning Commons a success. Patti Fisher, senior director of IT, and Bill Bemis, assistant director for student development, were instrumental in the development of the design and concept of the Learning Commons. The heart and personality of the learning commons are attributed largely to Kathy Gribbin, for whom the learning commons are named. “Kathy and I worked together for 18 years,”  said Vice President for Student Development Shawn Holtgren. “She is one of the most profound influences on my life as a person and as a professional.” Gribbin spent over 30 years serving college students in a variety of capacities, including admissions and recruitment, activities director, resident director, dean of students and as a vice president. “I would say at her heart—and this is why the Learning Commons is such a fitting dedication for her—at her heart was relationships,” Holtgren said. “She loved working with college students. She loved investing in them in the classroom, outside the classroom, one-on-one, in small groups. She would always be mentoring students. Kathy was known for a great cup of coffee and a great conversation. Her heartbeat was for college students, and so, any way that she could push students to believe in themselves, to dream big, and to be all God wants them to be, that was her mission.” “She was always interested in my life and goals,” said Holly Young, a 1997 graduate of Bethel College. “She was just a really good friend. She just cared a lot about my life.” Young met Gribbin while Young was a student and Gribbin was serving as a resident director at the college. The two developed a long-lasting friendship. Young shared that Gribbin supported her as a friend through good times as well as difficult times, and that Gribbin encouraged her to pursue her dreams. “She just really did help me to truly believe that I was a strong woman on my own.” The newly constructed Learning Commons consists of a variety of computers utilizing Windows 7, Windows 8, and Apple operating systems. Regardless of a student’s needs, from graphic-based needs to document-based needs, the computers in the Learning Commons are available to meet those needs, according to Boehner. Study rooms are also available for reservation, and provide a relaxed setting in which study groups can meet. A portion of the room contains chairs and couches  which allow for increased comfort while studying. Tutoring services, in a variety of subjects, are also available through the Learning Commons. Students commented on a variety of aspects of the Learning Commons. “It looks very spiffy,” Kayla Hardesty said. Julia Shin commented that “The touchscreen was really cool,” and Allison Condit sees it as “a good resource”. Easton Katayama shared, “I really love the colors and the atmosphere that the Learning Commons has produced, and I think it will be a great atmosphere for the winter because it will just be a lively place to study.” There will be a dedication ceremony in November, to commemorate the Learning Commons in honor of Kathy Gribbin. Boehner said that he hopes the Learning Commons is and continues to remain true to the legacy of Kathy Gribbin, and that it will be a valuable “contribution to excellence, learning, and community.”
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