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Building expansion supports growth of Watson Institute

Stephen Robert Hall provides space for collaboration between community members

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs opened the doors to Stephen Robert Hall Dec. 10, a new addition meant to facilitate collaborative learning for University community members, according to Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Director Edward Steinfeld.

The addition — which includes common spaces, offices and classrooms — is the latest of the University’s investments in Watson, as conversations continue about the Institute’s place within the University. Last April, the Office of the Dean of the College led a review of the public policy, international relations and development studies concentrations that eventually resulted in a report recommending the combination of the three concentrations, The Herald previously reported.  A “draft plan” of the proposed changes to the concentrations, which have been met with resistance from some students and faculty, should be finished “in a few weeks,” wrote Director of the Undergraduate Policy Concentration Anthony Levitas in an email to The Herald.

Stephen Robert Hall, dedicated to Stephen Robert ‘62 P’91, supports the University’s research initiatives, according to Provost Richard Locke P’18.

“Investing in the institution’s physical plant is an essential component of running a top-tier research university ,” Locke wrote in an email to The Herald.

Stephen Robert Hall can be found at 280 Brook Street, adjacent to the two older Watson buildings at 111 Thayer and 59 Charlesfield. Neither of the buildings on Thayer or Charlesfield facilitate “socializing,” Steinfeld said. “The (new) space provides for communal activity — whether that’s people grabbing a bite to eat in the café,” or study groups convening in conference rooms. “These are all different ways that learning happens,” Steinfeld added.

“We’ve already witnessed the impact that this modern, bright and welcoming space has had on cultivating community, and it’s gratifying to see students making good use of the building for social and study space,” Locke wrote.

In addition to the construction of Stephen Robert Hall, the Watson Institute has expanded with a number of other projects in recent years. Some of these include a new research initiative called “Citizenship and the City,” new hiring of faculty and a revised Masters in Public Affairs program, Steinfeld said.

“All of those are motivated in one way or another by the idea that the future and vitality of Watson is dependent on deeper integration with the rest of the campus,” Steinfeld said. Stephen Robert Hall is “ one place with people coming from all backgrounds and ethnicities” where they can intermingle and talk about global issues, Steinfeld added. “It’s an ideal learning environment for all of us, not just the students.”

Steinfeld and Locke are far from the only fans of the addition. International Relations Departmental Undergraduate Group leader Jason Togut ’20 said he uses the space “pretty much everyday.”

“I think the Watson’s expansion is great,” Togut said. “I started using it during finals. … The light is amazing, there are a lot of great places to study. It’s really great to have another study space in that area (of campus),” he added. He also noted that the space has helped International Relations concentrators like himself exchange ideas.

“We didn’t have the space before really to collaborate at the level we needed to, but now we do,” Togut said.


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