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Lowell Thomas renovations to commence this summer

By Ana Jean Healy
On May 2, 2012

  • Three cheers for cheap pitchers, spicy wings and a week full of nights to remember. Kait Smith

Plans to renovate Lowell Thomas, the academic building that houses the School of Communication and the Arts are finally under way. After almost four years of planning, the director of the Physical Plant, Justin Butwell said that the renovations will begin this summer and cross over to next summer.

According to the Marist College website, "The Lowell Thomas Communications Center opened in 1987, allowing students to combine the disciplines of communications, math, and computer science in a state-of-the-art environment." However, since its construction, numerous changes have been made to the campus. The math and computer science departments have been moved to the Hancock Center and and the technology that was once state-of-the-art is now outdated and in need of replacement.  

"The renovations are long overdue," said Dr. Paula Willoquet, a media arts professor and chair of the Media Arts Department. "We've all been waiting for this to happen and there is really no downside to it."

Butwell said that the renovation plans include completely gutting and reconfiguring the ground floor, which is prone to ground water seepage. The building sustained a reasonable amount of water damage during Hurricane Irene. In addition to the demolition of the ground floor, there will be some work done to the main and upper levels, including new classrooms and seminar rooms.

"We plan on changing the general aesthetics of the building," Butwell said. "The upgrade is necessary to keep up with the new technologies and remain competitive."

As of right now, none of the renovations are set in stone and some may be altered, but according to Willoquet the renovations will have a tremendous impact on the programs the college has to offer.

Updates to the building will include a new screening room, improvements to the production studios, a new sports communication center on the main floor and new labs for classes such as Digital Toolbox, which will feature glass walls and state-of-the-art flat screen technology. Admissions and the Global Studies department will also move their facilities to Lowell Thomas.

Along with the physical changes to the building, there will be additional upgrades to the equipment that communication majors use.

Joey Wall, the director of Media and Instructional Technology for the Media Center, said that the media center recently donated or recycled a majority of its equipment in order to make room for the new equipment that will be ordered as part of the renovations.

"Marist is dedicated to having the latest technology available for our students and faculty, so most of the equipment gets replaced every five years or so," Wall said.

The plan is to have a completely tapeless production equipment. Willoquet said that this new equipment will "make the program more attractive and exciting to students."

The changes to the facility will coincide with the development of the new media studies and production degree, starting in 2013. This new major will replace the radio-TV-film concentration that is currently part of the department and will offer more in-depth production and media studies courses. There will also be a new minor added to the college's course offerings in video media.

Construction on Lowell Thomas will begin once this semester comes to a close and will continue through to the end of the summer. The construction will have no impact on fall classes and everything will resume as normal next semester.

"We're all very excited about the project," Willoquet said. "After it is completed, who wouldn't want to come here?"

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