At RIC, Buildings are Rising to Meet the Needs of Students

Rhode Island College Impact

Rhode Island College is steadily rebuilding its infrastructure.

For almost a year now, the Rhode Island College community has been observing with curiosity the cranes, forklifts, bulldozers and other heavy equipment converging on Craig-Lee Hall as it undergoes renovation. Shielded by fencing, the building sits like an unwrapped gift on the edge of the Quad.

Many want to know what will be inside.

RIC Director of Capital Projects Kevin Fitta, who is overseeing the construction, pointed out what will be the principal features of Craig-Lee Hall. Right now, the gaping windows of the gutted building expose a complex network of steel beams to accommodate new electrical, lighting, plumbing, air conditioning and mechanical systems. Additional windows were also cut into the building to let in more natural light.

However, the most prominent feature of the redesign is a five-story addition facing the quadrangle (pictured above) that will accommodate four academic departments, while classrooms will be contained on the three floors of the original building. 

This addition will serve as the new home for the Departments of English, Psychology, Mathematics/Computer Science and History. Each department will have a suite consisting of faculty offices, a conference room, a kitchenette and a meeting space. 

“Like Gaige Hall, each level in the building mimics the other,” Fitta explained. “Bathrooms will be stacked in the same location on each level. Glassed-in lounges will be stacked in the same location on each floor. And we’ve added five gender-neutral bathrooms.”

The three levels of the original building will accommodate 39 classrooms (seating 32 students each). Of the 39 classrooms, two will be computer labs, two will be active learning spaces and two will be high-tech active learning spaces. 

“Emerging models of active learning spaces are being created throughout the campus,” Fitta said. Craig-Lee Hall’s high-tech classrooms will be outfitted with four D-shaped tables that seat groups of eight, with eight computers per table. Each table will face a flat-panel display on the wall, enabling students to share content from their computers with their group or to share content across the classroom on all four flat-panels. The other two active learning classrooms will feature round tables seating​ eight students per table.  

The remaining 33 standard classrooms in the building will be equipped with either two-person tables and chairs or Node chairs – self-contained desks on wheels with swivel seats and surfaces that swivel in tandem, keeping books, laptops and other information at one’s fingertips. Node seating is designed for group interaction and provides clear sightlines to the professor, fellow students and the whiteboard.

While active learning is on the rise at RIC, so are communal spaces. On the ground floor of the five-story addition, construction workers are building a coffee shop and lounge, where students can hunker down with textbooks or hang out with fellow students. The coffee shop’s glass walls provide an open view of the Quad and the eatery will have its own entrance and patio in what was formerly called “The Pit.”

There will also be two suites of seven offices on the ground floor,​ along with a dedicated suite for psychology research labs.

Fitta estimates that Craig-Lee will be completed by December 2018 and that the building will be open for classes by Spring Semester 2019.

Other projects underway or in the planning stages are the Student Union, the Student Success Center and the Counseling Center. 

The blueprint for the Student Union involves a more open floor plan to accommodate additional seating, lounge areas, a game room, a gender-neutral bathroom, a more prominent information desk as well as a renovated book store (operated by Barnes & Noble College). The ground floor of the Student Union will also be reconfigured to accommodate additional seating and lounge areas, a gender-neutral bathroom and a lactation station along with a small commuter food-preparation area. Student mailboxes will be removed and the café replaced with a national sandwich shop chain. Renovation is scheduled to commence this winter.

This summer, construction will be completed on the Counseling Center in Browne Hall and the Student Success divisional office in Roberts Hall​. 

As Rhode Island College steadily rebuilds its infrastructure by repurposing space, adapting classrooms to active learning environments and creating a variety of communal spaces for students to gather, the goal is that students will come to feel that RIC is not only a great institution of higher learning but their home away from home.

Capital Projects is responsible for the planning, design and implementation of major construction projects on campus, not only building renovations but roadways, parking lots, roof replacements and underground utilities. The staff consists of engineer and Director of Capital Projects Kevin Fitta, College Engineer Andrew Mayes, College Projects Manager Jess Galatro, Construction Projects Manager Jarred Jackson and Department Coordinator Karla Mello. Dave Cook from Keough Construction has been project manager for both the Gaige Hall and the Craig-Lee Hall renovations. With their technical expertise, the Capital Projects team hires and oversees outside architects and engineers, working directly with them throughout the construction process.​