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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Darden College of Education Opens Dazzling New Building

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Jane Bray is beaming.

The dean of Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education, Bray is about to start the latest of many tours she has led of the college's recently opened Education Building. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

"Everything you're going to see here is unreal and amazing to us," Bray says. "To have a president and administration support us to this degree is the most affirming thing ever."

The newest academic building on Old Dominion's campus, the 120,000-square-foot Education Building opened to students at the start of the spring semester. The five-story, LEED Silver Certified building has many state-of-the-art features, which weren't available in the college's former home on Kaufman Mall.

Starting with the Career Advising and Resource Center on the first floor, Bray's tour includes such highlights as the accessible collaboration spaces on every floor and the high-ceilinged multi-purpose auditorium on the first floor. "It's a magnificent room that is already highly in demand," Bray says.

Designed to anchor the south end of campus and serve as a visual landmark for visitors arriving from Hampton Boulevard, the building also connects seamlessly to adjacent buildings and the street.

From the fifth-floor boardroom, floor-to-ceiling windows offer striking views of downtown and of campus. "We can see the Barry Art Museum when construction begins across the street," Bray says.

When it opened in 1968, ODU's original $1.75-million Education Building was the largest on campus. It housed the largest teacher-training center in southeastern Virginia and was built to provide room for 50 or 60 additional faculty, who were hired for the growing college in the first few years after the building opened.

Bray says the new Education Building will bring new energy and resources to the college's landmark programs, such as MonarchTeach, the Virginia Early Childhood Policy Center and the brand new ODU Literacy Center.

While some faculty members initially wrestled with how to move their belongings to the new building (several had worked in the original Education Building for their entire careers), many have extolled the attributes, and unexpected benefits, of the new building.

"I had one longtime faculty member say to me that they had lunch with colleagues that they didn't know for the first time ever," Bray says. "That's the real value of the collaboration spaces and shared spaces of this building."

On the fourth floor, students in STEM education, fashion merchandising and the MonarchTeach program now receive instruction and do laboratory work in modern, immersive learning environments. Petros Katsioloudis, chair of the Department of STEM Education and Professional Studies, said he can now provide instruction on a machine while wearing a camera, allowing students to observe remotely.

"Before, if I was on a machine like the metal lathe, there might be room for only two or three students to see what I am doing. Now it can be the whole class," Katsioloudis says.

The building is already being used as a recruitment tool, both for the Darden College and the University. Bray says that more than two dozen counselors from across Hampton Roads have been invited to tour the building with students from their high schools. In addition, a memorandum of understanding is being signed to allow the Virginia School Counselor Association to hold a conference in the building in February, bringing 200 more counselors to campus.

And if visitors need to be further convinced about the merits of Old Dominion, they can speak to Jane Bray herself.

"I'm just so happy and proud, of this building, this college and this University. I feel like a Monarch," she says. "I feel like the University is so behind us, and we all want to build on what we have here in the Darden College."