Graduate College of Social Work begins renovation
The Graduate College of Social Work on Oct. 3 broke ground on a $3.9 million renovation project that will provide improvements to the entire first floor of the college’s 41-year-old building.
The modernization of the structure — which will include the construction of a new entrance pavilion, an updated lobby and revamped classroom configurations — is projected to be completed by spring 2021, according to a news release.
“With this renovation, our building will reflect the status that we have (as a college),” Dean of the Graduate College of Social Work Alan Dettlaff said. “(Students) are the ones who are going to be changing the world after they graduate, and I want our learning environment to reflect the status of our students.”
The Graduate College of Social Work is ranked No. 22 in the nation for Best Schools for Social Work, according to U.S. News and World Report.
The project is funded in part by donations from the Mehta Family Foundation, the Houston Endowment, the Hamill Foundation, the Frees Foundation and the Creuzot family.
Renovations to the first floor are being undertaken to address a lack of common space that currently hampers collaborative work and community engagement, Dettlaff said.
The updated lobby will feature lounge and table seating, as well as interactive installations. A display wall inside the pavilion will be visible to the campus community and will share the college’s mission of achieving social, racial, economic and political justice for all.
Classrooms will receive upgrades to their configurations, acoustics and technology to foster an active learning environment. Each classroom will have audio/visual and projection capabilities, all the walls will have whiteboard space and technology updates to allow people to livestream in, Dettlaff said.
The construction will also implement the first multi-user, all-gender restroom on campus.
“It’s important to me that our college has a welcoming and inclusive environment,” Dettlaff said.
There are also plans to update the tile mosaic, created by artist Reginald Adams, on the building’s first floor. The college is currently raising funds to employ the artist to refresh the mural.
“If he had to do it over, he’d do it differently. We want him to do that,” Dettlaff said. “It’ll be completely redone with the same spirit and design.”
The construction to the Graduate College of Social Work building will be completed in phases to minimize disruptions and impact on students, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Construction Management David Oliver said.
“The construction does provide continued access to floors two through four,” Oliver said. “All measures will be taken to keep students, faculty and staff safe and provide accessible routes in and out of the building.”
However, the college may opt to move offices and classes to alternative locations within the Graduate College of Social Work building or to other on-campus locations.
This renovation project comes one year after the beginning of the Core Building Renovations project, an initiative that intends to strategically renovate the buildings that form the general educational core of the central University of Houston campus.
“The University will be dedicating $3 million a year to updating aging classrooms all across campus, including two on the second floor of the Graduate College of Social Work,” Oliver said.
In addition to the two rooms that will be updated by the University, the Graduate College of Social Work is 25 percent toward their goal of raising funds to pay for a renovation of the structure’s second floor.