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Sitting in a New York University dorm room in the middle of summer vacation, Scott Dzialo and Joyce Greenbaum came up with an idea.

This idea is for a dynamic and adaptable classroom that can be used for any class type, subject or situation. It will be equipped with different types of projectors, walls built as white boards and other forms of technology.

“We’re living in very diverse times where you really have to think about problems creatively and draw from many different disciplines, and this enables us to do that,” a 2012 College graduate, Greenbaum said. “The classroom will give students and professors a laboratory where they can experiment with problem solving learning.”

Former Student Committee on Undergraduate Education Chairs Dzialo, a Wharton senior, and Greenbaum, came up with and decided to pursue this idea of building a flexible classroom two years ago. The flexible classroom is a joint effort with Penn Libraries.

The classroom, which will be built over the summer, is based on designs by architect Scott Erdy. Currently, the project is still in its preliminary design stage.

Dzialo said the idea for the classrooms was reaffirmed by similar “smart spaces” at peer institutions like Johns Hopkins and Yale Universities.

Director of Public Services for Penn Libraries Marjorie Hassen explained that the construction of this classroom was made possible by the donations of two donors, 1967 Wharton graduate Larry Bass and 1981 Wharton graduate Chuck MacDonald.

“The Bass family embraced this idea because they had a dual commitment to SCUE and the libraries, and Chuck MacDonald agreed to match the Bass family gift,” Hassen said.

The new innovation fund, Dzialo explained, is intended for any hardware, software or other expenditures used in conjunction with the new room.

“When you understand the limitations of a classroom, you understand how restrictive it is to how you learn and teach,” Dzialo said. “It’s really important to communicate why this flexibility is so important …. It will allow professors to experiment and try new things.”

Hassen echoed similar sentiments, emphasizing that collaboration between different members of the Penn community is one of the ultimate goals.

“We have been developing and talking about collaborative spaces — this resonated with us because it’s something that we work a great deal on,” Hassen said. “Our goal is really to serve the student and faculty population.”

The room will be located on the first floor of Van Pelt Library in the back of the reference area, which currently houses government documents and some stacks, according to Hassen.

“It’s not just about [the] technology that’s going into the classroom,” SCUE Chair and Engineering junior Michelle Ho said. “It goes down to simple things like the furniture and how the classroom is really organized …. It’s going to build a new sense of community inside the class.”

Van Pelt was chosen as the location because it is a central hub on campus. “We wanted it to influence everyone on campus — we didn’t want it tied to a specific school,” Greenbaum said. “Everyone can access, use and garner a lot of educational benefit from it.”

Hassen and Dzialo both said they are hopeful that the project will be completed and ready for use for the first days of classes in September.

“This classroom helps every single group on campus — it will allow for professors to get additional support from libraries to further teaching initiatives and students to have a new centralized group space,” Dzialo said. “To actually see students really advocate for something and work with alumni and the University to find a solution for it is unbelievably cool — and pretty unprecedented.”

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