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Expanding engineering school considers off-campus space

The prospect of a site off College Hill sparks concern among students over accessibility

The School of Engineering is exploring options, including sites off College Hill, for a new building to accommodate the ongoing expansion in the size of its faculty and student body, said Dean of Engineering Lawrence Larson.

Some students expressed concern that a building in a different location could diminish the possibility of building close relationships with professors.

“Accessibility is a huge thing that Brown offers,” said engineering student Emily Toomey ’15. Barus and Holley’s proximity to the rest of campus has allowed her to pursue research opportunities and meet with her professors during the two-hour break between her classes, she said. A commute to an off-campus site would diminish this fluidity, she said.

Larson said the department’s “number one priority” is maintaining the close relationships between students and faculty members. “If we built off the Hill, that would become a real challenge,” he added.

Some students said they felt the possible physical separation between engineering and the rest of campus might affect their academic experiences outside of the department.

If the building were moved off campus, “I would be less inclined to take liberal arts classes that are in the center of campus,” Toomey said.

Karina Alventosa ’13 added that a move downtown would seem to go against the philosophy of the New Curriculum, since it would be hard to attend classes in such different places.

But even if the school were to expand to a location off College Hill, important elements of the engineering program would remain on campus, faculty members said.

“Having a new building doesn’t mean that engineering clears out of Barus and Holley,” said Iris Bahar, associate professor of engineering. “There will still be a presence of engineering on College Hill.”

The University’s strategic planning Committee on Reimagining the Brown Campus and Community is in the process of working with planning firms to figure out how much additional space is needed and which option best fits those needs, Larson said. The new space will allow for expansion of research in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, nanoengineering and entrepreneurial studies, he added.

Engineering student Brett Stevens ’14 described Barus and Holley as an unpleasant, cramped space. “I hope they would renovate Barus and Holley or build a new building on campus rather than relocate,” he added.

“People don’t want to walk far,” said engineering student Patrick Lynch ’16, who said he discussed the issue with his friends who are engineers. “That’s sort of been a unanimous response.”


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