John Morello Interview

 

(Can you explain your role in the development of the HCC?)

-Well, it was a “long and winding road” as the old song says. I originally started as a member of the group that was supposed to be part of the building committee. That was in March 2008 when I was recruited for the position on the committee and any individual who was supposed to chair the committee, our former CIO at the time took a job at another school and before he left he asked me if I would take over the job of being in charge of the building committee. So that happened in May 2008, and then from May 2008 until the building opened in September 2014 we had the official dedication ceremony. I was pretty much involved in just about every aspect of the whole project.

(Can you speak about the webpages you managed?)
-Tracking the progress on the website was important, because the project changed over the course of its history and development and we wanted to have a way of keeping track. I was also very hopeful it would be a device for keeping the campus community informed about what the project was and why it was important. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that all along the way there were lots of students and faculty who said “what we’re building a building? What’s this building going to be?”and I told him to go and look at the website. So were trying to use that as a device for outreach, to explain to everyone what the project was about. The idea of having frequently asked questions, Pages on that website was to deal with some of the questions that came up in the early days. Like a lot of students were concerned if their tuition was going to be increased because we were building a new building and we wanted to address it head on. The students were concerned about the loss of the path that cuts in front of DuPont and Pollard, so we had to address that. And we wanted a lot of the faculty understand their resources.

(What features best showcase the buildings potential?)
-Well I think the thing that matters the most to me is every time I come into the building I like to see how many students are there using it for all sorts of different purposes. All along the way we thought this was going to be a building that would really resonate with students, but you’re always worried that you might’ve miscalculated and you build a building and it’s a ghost town. And I’ve been very pleased every time I come over here the building is still lively and active. The students here all the time taking advantage of a lot of the facilities. I’m very pleased to see that this room is no longer being used as a storage room. I remember the last time I was in here there’s just boxes and boxes of stuff. And I wondered when we were ever going to actually use the capability of the studio. So I think it’s great they were having this interview. I’ve use the editing room next-door myself and I’ve seen other faculty and students making good use of that room as well.

(How do you see the building being used in 10 year?)
I was part of the design decision in the beginning to make the building adaptable. But the answer to your question 10 years from now, it’s going to depend on what are the technological changes between now and then. And how of the building would be able to incorporate some of those things. One of the interesting things we had a lot of debate about was a lot of people said “why are we putting computers on the second floor of the building?”,  no students will ever use them students have their own computers, they have the smart phones, they have the tablets. Well if you look at those computers upstairs they pretty much an use all the time. Sometimes the things you think are going to beat technological innovations changes, turn out to be oversold or sometimes the old ways of the best. It really is going to depend upon where we are 10 years from now to see how the billing is going to be different. I think the building is going to adapt and change just fine, but the test of that will be if we come up with a proposal to relocate some of those floor panels with the glass enclosed conference rooms and separation rooms on the second floor those walls can all be relocated if we decide room 210 needs to be smaller hey do we need additional collaboration space, we got the capability of doing that without bringing in a bunch of sledgehammers.

(Did the HCC turn out the way you envisioned?)
-It did, it turned out different from what my original conception of it was. Early on we had additional large classrooms scheduled to be in the building and then sort of reached a point where we didn’t have construction funding approved by the state yet so that construction took a pause. It was during that time we decided to move the writing center and the speaking center out of their location of the time and put them on the fourth floor of the building. So that it wasn’t an original part of the plan, but it was something we involved later. Because we saw some benefit in having the speaking center the writing center located in the same physical space. I really like the cluster of classrooms we have on the third floor and how they’re all different. The mobile glass boards that you can write on, it’s fine to come into the building and see students from commuter science filling the boards up with code, or chemistry students writing formulas so I think that all works.

(Any last thoughts on the HCC?)
-You’re probably aware of this for your own research and history on the building, this building was supposed to be put where Mercer hall is now. Mercer hall was going to be demolished and I think this building in our architects made the case that the building would be less vibrant, and less of vital if was disconnected from campus walk. They were the ones that really proposed put you to this location next to library and adjacent to the student center. That was really the mission of the building, to bring together students gathering, research, technology all in one place. And if you stand outside of this building and you look around it really fits into the location, it doesn’t look like it was shoved in a place where didn’t belong. It just fits the landscape well, and that made it possible for Mercer hall to be repurposed. First is the place where history and political science hung out while Monroe is being renovated, now it’s the new home for the psychological science department Mercer hall is a beautiful building so this whole part of the campus has really shaped up and be dramatically transformed over the past few years. Not only with the conversion center but also with the renovations and Woodard Hall for the college of business, and also Mercer hall for the department of psychological studies.