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ur in rva

With some creative thinking in response to social distancing protocols, the university reinvented a variety of spaces for atypical uses during the fall semester. In addition to academic buildings, areas like the Robins Center, Jepson Alumni Center, the Heilman Dining Center, and Cannon Memorial Chapel were transformed and outfitted to accommodate student needs.

“The university is fortunate that we have small, intimate classrooms — that’s what attracts people to us,” said Sam Lloyd, manager of support services. “That being said, a normal classroom that would typically hold 30 students could only hold eight or 10 once we set social distancing so we had to start looking and get creative with larger spaces.”

This semester, classrooms are on the ambulatory level of the Robins Center, the basketball courts in the Weinstein Center for Recreation, and the third floor of the law school library, an area normally filled with bookstacks, among other places. The university also installed 12 tents across campus for use for academic purposes, dining locations, and co-curricular activities.

“Just about every event space that we have here on campus has been utilized in some form or fashion,” Lloyd said, “whether it’s for storage or an actual classroom.”

All of the new instructional spaces were retrofitted with the necessary instructional technology, and sound buffers were added in some areas, such as the Robins Center, to minimize noise and distractions between classrooms. In pre-existing classrooms, where technology for instruction already exists, the university installed additional monitors and cameras so that students who are attending virtually have a greater sense of connection to the class.

All of which raises an interesting question. Years from now, today’s students will be alumni coming back for Reunion Weekend. What will tomorrow’s students think when alumni tell stories about the semester when they took Principals of Financial Management on the concourse of the Robins Center?