Drake University is committed to elevating Meredith Hall to new levels of accessibility and comfort while preserving the spirit of the building’s original mid-century architecture.
Drake’s mission statement says one of the university’s goals is to “provide an exceptional learning environment that prepares students for… professional accomplishments,” so the Board of Trustees approved a plan to renovate the building and update technology last October, according to a Times-Delphic article.
“It’s early in the process, but so far [the renovations] are on schedule,” School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Catherine Staub said.
Staub also said that supply chain demand and shortages are changing some of the restoration plans. Staff had considered adding cushions to the seats in the lecture halls, but final construction costs will determine if that will be an option.
Over the summer, construction teams completed prep work on the site, such as securing the exterior and moving in heavy equipment.
For the duration of the project, the SJMC has moved to “Meredith East” on 25th street. Ray Fredregill, multimedia engineer and lecturer, led the charge in converting a former restaurant and hair salon into multimedia classrooms.
“The technology wasn’t there for presentation or much of anything,” Fredregill said. “We just had to bring it, but the J school is uniquely positioned to do that.”
Circumstances limited early move-in, so much of the transition occurred during the last week of May and beginning of August.
Despite being in a temporary home, the SJMC faculty and staff are dedicated to maintaining the journalism school experience for incoming and returning students.
“The [first-year] experience is always focused on making people feel welcome,” Fredregill said. “I think that will stay the same,” Fredregill said.
“We are known for being the SJMC family. That is not place dependent. That’s our culture,” Staub said. “I really hope that remains the same wherever we are.”
This time next year, students can hopefully expect to use the new space and all the technological updates. The additions include updated projectors, screens and speakers.
“Those things that impact the way we learn [are] getting an update,” Staub said.
Staub also said that multimedia students can look forward to a film-viewing room where students can “show their own work and see the work of others.”
Fredregill said he’s looking forward to updating the technology to match the rapidly changing media industry.
“In the 1960s, [they didn’t] anticipate what [was] gonna be needed,” he said. “When the building was made, it was broadcast television channels, radio and the newspaper.”
Fredregill said the journalism school prioritizes putting the most cutting edge technology in the hands of students, so this project is highly anticipated.
In addition to the enhancements, construction crews will also be updating the HVAC system, fixing leaky windows and making classrooms more accessible to meet current standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Staub said she looks forward to returning to an improved Meredith Hall that will support the needs of people working and learning at Drake now and into the future.
“I am excited to have a beautifully refreshed space,” Staub said. “Meredith is our home.”