Centennial Hall dedicated; technology use highlighted

Education and language building newest UW-Eau Claire academic building in over 30 years


Photo by Elizabeth Jackson

Centenial Hall had its grand opening on Wednesday, where students and community members alike could get tours of the building and enjoy beverages and snacks. © 2014 Elizabeth Jackson.

Story by Martha Landry, Editor in Chief

On Wednesday morning, a dedication ceremony for Centennial Hall took place on the third floor of the new building.

The ceremony highlighted the technological advances, touched on the importance of a liberal arts education and marked another milestone in UW-Eau Claire campus construction.

Chancellor James Schmidt spoke at the event, calling it “an important moment in the life of the university.”

Centennial Hall is the newest academic building in over 30 years on the Eau Claire campus. The $44.5 million building is home to language, history and education classes, as well as other disciplines. It unites the language and education departments, which were previously separated in multiple buildings because of spacing issues.

The hall has varying classrooms ­— classic, active learning, distance learning and method — as well as collaborative learning areas, labs and open study areas. It also updates the university’s classroom technological level.

Speakers at the dedication marveled at the modern look and feel of the building, as well as the potential it brings to the university. President of the Eau Claire Chamber ofCommerce Bill McCoy called the building “an economic development engine.” Chair of the University Senate and biology professor, Mitchell Freymiller said it is a first-hand view of “the future of a liberal education at UW-Eau Claire.”

Although the building was dedicated, Centennial Hall is the only building on campus that doesn’t carry the name of a significant university supporter.

Sophomore Anna Smith attended the dedication because her English professor heard rumors that Gov. Scott Walker would be in attendance, but he was not. Smith said she was pleased to hear the speakers bring up the technology the new building offers.

“I thought they did a really good job of explaining why it would be important for us to be learning this way,” Smith said, “Because it’s the way everything is headed.”

Smith has a class in a progressive classroom in Centennial Hall. The room has large monitors on the wall and shared group tables instead of a traditional classroom setting. Smith said the set up of the classroom forces her to interact with her classmates in a way traditional classes typically do not.

“I talk to my groups in that class probably more than I talk to any in my other classes because it’s made to make you communicate,” Smith said.

Emily Nesbitt, senior special education major, also spoke at the dedication as a voice for the students. Nesbitt said the building will meet the needs of students in terms of technology.

“It is a beautiful building that will service our students for years to come.”

The date of the dedication, Feb. 5, marked an important event the university’s history. On that date in 1910, 12 acres of land were purchased by the Wisconsin Board of Regents of Normal Schools as the future site of Eau Claire State Normal School ­— which eventually would become UW-Eau Claire.

Wednesday also marked an important date in the long journey of construction on Eau Claire’s campus.

By summer 2014, the chain-link gates ­— the last ‘eye-sore’ of construction ­— will be removed from the campus mall marking the completion of construction. For now.

The Davies Center and Centennial Hall mark two checks on the university’s Master Plan. A new student center and education center are just the beginning. In the next twenty years, the university has plans for Haas Fine Arts Center renovation and renewal, a new science complex, outdoor classrooms, Hilltop renovations as well as bicycle path updates .

Until the entire plan is completed, Chancellor James Schmidt expressed relief that another step was competed.

“It’s time we added something that mirrors the university,” Schmidt said.