Story by Larissa Wurm
Photo by Luke Nankivell
The first phase of the renovations began in February. It included a remodeling of the basement — which was originally storage space — to make a classroom, as well as creating a larger common area on the second level. The deck, which was originally used for smoking when the building was built, is going to be turned into a large, year-round common area meant to combine the two adjacent common areas.
“There are multiple purposes (for the renovations),” Allan Vestal, dean of Drake University Law School, said, “But the one especially targeted in phase one is the classrooms because when the building was built, students didn’t use laptops in class and teaching methods were different. There tended to be much more lecturing in classes and as much discussion. So the classrooms were laid out in a way which people taught 30 years ago. We basically wanted to make the classroom environment a better one.”
“The second major reason is this building has never had enough space for the kinds of informal interactions between faculty members and students, and among students, where a lot of the learning takes place,” Vestal said. “One of the things we wanted was to change a common area that sometimes people used into a large common area that everyone would use, to get that learning space.”
After the spring semester is completed, Cartwright Hall’s second floor is going to be redone, inserting two 45-seat cluster classrooms, a 40-seat courtroom classroom, one 20-seat seminar room, a central gallery and a common area.
The project is being funded by a number of different people — some private donors, some current law students.
“The Student Bar Association funded a renovation of the downstairs lounge space, which is now the Porterhouse Lounge,” Vestal said. “I find the student donors impressive because some of them won’t directly benefit from (the lounge).”
Kermit Sutton, a 1974 Drake Law School grad and Drake Board of Trustees member, was one of the big donors.
“My wife and I were pleased to donate to the law school,” Sutton said. “We have a great affection for the school and wanted to a make a leadership contribution to the institution.”
Planning for these renovations has been going on for roughly four years.
“We had two firms come in, one from New York and one local, and start planning and figuring out what we need and what the finished product should look like,” Vestal said.
One of the changes will be “cluster classrooms,” which will include tables for each set of
students, and chairs that will allow the students to swivel around for discussions in student groups. The concept came from the same firm who recently renovated
Harvard University’s classrooms.
“One of the difficulties was trying to anticipate future changes,” Vestal said. “We want what’s right for the current generation, but also for 10, 20, 30 years from now.”
The new lounge area will also be receiving new furniture. The furniture that is currently in the hall will still be used and spread throughout areas in the hall, including a small common area in the renovated basement.
The construction for phase one is expected to be complete in time for the fall 2013 semester.
The second phase is adding a new wing to the north side of the hall, and the third phase will be redoing the first floor of the building — but when those projects will start is still unclear.
The law building has not been renovated to this extent since it was built in the 1970s.