Today students are finding new ways to work collaboratively, across academic disciplines and distance, and often in ways not convenient before at WSU.

The hub of this activity is the new $32 million Samuel H. Smith Center for Undergraduate Education.  The “CUE” was designed to support “student-centered and interactive learning,” says Gary Brown, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, one of four units housed in the five-story, 94,000 square-foot building.  Other units include the WSU Writing Program, the General Education Program, and the Student Computing Services lab. The building contains 20 classrooms of various sizes, while the SCS lab has 45 workstations, a dozen wireless laptops, and capacity for an additional 33 laptop computers.

“Clearly education is not about down loading information,” says Richard Law, director of  WSU’s General Education program. “It is about transforming and empowering people.”

That is a goal of the CUE. It brings the resources of the Internet into classrooms equipped with special sound systems and viewing screens. Some rooms support two-way video conferencing, as do auditoriums seating 240 and 109.

The Writing Program expects to expand offerings and serve more students in its roomy quarters. The CTLC is open to faculty and graduate students interested in improving their teaching strategies or in exploring innovative methods of teaching either individually or with others.

Paul Lee, professor and chair of fine arts, helped configure graphic arts workstations in the SCS lab. Now, fine arts students can work with peers in advertising, for example, on shared projects via the SCS lab. In addition, a music workstation is being developed in the SCS lab to replicate some of the capabilities of the electronic music lab in Kimbrough Hall that includes workstations connected to computers, keyboards, soundboards, printers and digital recorders. While a number of computer labs exist on campus, Lee emphasizes the importance of a shared, multidisciplinary facility open to all students regardless of department. The lab is open until 2 a.m.

In addition to coffee and sandwiches, the Cyber Café offers Internet access via more than two-dozen computer ports, hubs for wireless computers, and an outdoor plaza.

“This is a place where students can gather, mingle and work together,” says project manager Virgil Hanson. The mezzanine floor with four stories of widows on the West side has become a “commons” area. Wide corridors throughout feature stained wood veneer. Gray basalt from a quarry near Vancouver highlights the building’s brick exterior. Jost-Grube-Hall of Portland was architect and Lydig Construction of Spokane was contractor.

The building opened in mid-January. It was dedicated in Smith’s name during May 9 ceremonies. The former WSU president (1985 to 2000) is a consultant for the University, working out of WSU West offices in Seattle.