Martha Burtis Interview


-My Name is Martha Burtis, and I am the Director of the Digital Knowledge Center.


(Can you summarize your involvement with the HCC?)

– The Original planing for the CC started way back… November or Dec. of 2007. At that time I was director of teaching and learning technologies, so when the first planning committee was put together by our CIO of the time Chip German, I was asked to sit on that committee and served on that for about 6 or 7 months, until I went on maternity leave then came back part time. But I was there from the very beginning. For the first 3 or 4 meetings we had that late fall into spring to wrap our heads around what we thought this building was going to be.


(What features best showcase the building’s potential?)

– Oh Gosh, I love all of the facilities the building has, i love this room, i love the media lab, the media wall. but i guess if I were to say what I love most about the building is something bigger then that… which is I feel like after years of the university doing some really innovative work with digital technology in the classroom, this building became the physical instantiation of that. So so much of the work we had been doing was happening all over the campus or in virtual spaces.. and now there is this building that people really associate with that work, where we can explore media and see students really inhabit that space is really exciting.


(How do you see the building being used in 10 years?)

– Thats a great question, and I have no idea, there’s obviously very specific practical considerations to that. Just down to how do we monetarily, how do we budget to maintain all of the equipment and how do we anticipate how things will go with technology, and how the building adapts to that. I will tell you that all through the planing process that idea of creating a space that can be adaptive was definitely in the forefront of our minds. That’s a tricky thing to do, as pencil goes to paper, or as digital ink goes to file and things actually start getting solidified, in terms of planning and architectural design but I think we always try to keep that in mind. Even something like the fact we have the raised floor throughout the building that allow us to maybe flexibly refigure the wires that are in the building. That was sort of the idea that we needed a building that could grow with us. So I don’t know where we will go but, I hope our students will help us find that direction and use of the space.


(Can you expand on the DKC’s available resources?)

– That’s something I’m really proud of because, it’s been important to me that we communicate to our campus communities as clearly as possible what this space is about. So we have three academic spaces in this building, we have three scheduled classrooms that are heavily scheduled now that the building is up and running. That’s great because it breaths life into the building, with the faculty, and students moving in this space. We also have other kinds of gathering spaces, so there are conference rooms that are very heavily used by constituency from around campus; for meetings and gatherings, workshops. We have some smaller collaboration spaces, that are really there for our students some of them are glassed in some are more open; places for them to meet and work together. We also have the digital auditorium on the first floor which is a really large; multi purpose room, I think a really beautiful room too, and it has been incredible to see it being used since it has been open last spring all the different kinds of events and groups that have been using it in the ways that space has been meaningful for them. So there’s all that kind of space that people have been inhabiting. In addition we have particular services that are available in the building; the information desk that is the grand central of the HCC, we have equipment that can be checked out and that is something that we are really really happy we can provide as a service for our students, as much digital media equipment as possible also game systems and equipment that can be used in this studio. So there’s that aspect of it, and then we have a number of support services in the building; the building is linked to the library so the library has a presence here so the students can get library support at the library desk, and on the 4th floor the writing and speaking center are co-located at the same place this is great because it’s one place where students go for both of those, and my new center the Digital Knowledge center, provides support for students on digital assignments and projects, its brand knew and opened with the building. Its really in my mind it’s there as a foundational space for people to use this building, we teach people on how to use the studio and how to use software in the lab. So that students don’t feel like we just unleashed this huge building with lots of resources without any assistance to get them up and running.

(Any last thoughts on the HCC?)

– Other than after 7 years from planning to opening the building, we had this vision of what we thought the building would be and its really been very rewarding to see our students at UMW take to the building. We weren’t sure, we had an idea that this would be something that people would like, and need, and use, and relish but you don’t know because it’s so different from any other building on campus you really don’t know until it opens how it’s going to play out. So from day one seeing students in here, seeing them make sense of this space for us has really been rewarding, and also interesting and instructive and i hope students at UMW will continue to think of this as a space for themselves and work with us to imagine where we go for the future.