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News Release


UAlbany President Karen R. Hitchcock Welcomes Back
Students to Newly Improved Classrooms

Contact: Heidi Weber (518) 437-4980, Karl Luntta (518) 265-4114, cell

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 2, 2003) -- The University at Albany today unveiled a $1 million rehabilitation of 27 of its most heavily used classrooms, the first phase of a multi-year commitment to facilities improvement and innovation. The project focuses on essential design elements that directly affect classroom learning such as temperature, lighting and furniture and the accommodation of state-of-the-art technology.

UAlbany President Karen R. Hitchcock said, "This effort is yet another example of how our learning environment is continually evolving to provide our students with the best academic experience possible. Classrooms that respond to student needs help to attract the best and brightest students. This is essential as UAlbany strives to become one of the top 30 public research universities in the country."

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education (March 7, 2003), classroom design experts believe that carefully designed, comfortable learning environments play an important role in classroom learning. Design expert Daniel Niemeyer, author of Hard Facts on Smart Classroom Design, said that elements such as desks, chairs and lighting are "crucial" elements of good classroom design.

UAlbany's renovations incorporate 36,500 square feet of classroom space and are the result of a year-long planning process. The conditions of 92 uptown classrooms and 18 downtown classrooms were assessed. In addition, students were surveyed for ideas on what would provide an optimal learning environment.

The immediate focus is on the most heavily used classrooms including the Lecture Center and the Humanities classrooms, which account for more than 50 percent of classes. Within those buildings, six Lecture Center rooms and 21 Humanities rooms were targeted for summer renovations and improvements.

The entire first floor of Humanities was renovated this summer with freshly painted classrooms, larger tablet desks and chairs, an attached basket for books, new lighting and new window treatments. Desktops are durable graphite, and the chairs have a flexible seatback. Carpeting has been replaced with tiles and acoustical fabric covers the walls. Three of the renovated Humanities rooms are "smart classrooms" equipped with multimedia equipment that includes a new sound system, instructor computer and VCR. In addition, the hallways have new flooring, ceilings and lighting.

In the Lecture Center classrooms, chairs, carpeting and some ceilings have been replaced. Light gray tabletops have been replaced by a darker graphite.

The Humanities Building west lobby will also host a display of contemporary art given to the University by computer magnate and philanthropist Peter Norton. Each year, the Peter Norton Family Foundation commissions an artist to create a unique work for distribution to its Christmas list, which includes friends, museums and university galleries and museums across the country. Since 1994, UAlbany has received unique works, including artist Kara Walker's pop-up silhouette book titled, Freedom: A Fable, narrated by a "soon-to-be emancipated 19th-century Negress" who dreams of creating a new world in Africa after the war. Also on display is Brazilian artist Vik Muniz's recreation of Caravaggio's Medusa (1590) rendered in pasta marinara.

In addition to the classroom renovations, two adjacent low-rise residence halls constructed in 1964-65 on Dutch Quad on the uptown campus, were also completely rehabilitated this summer. The residence halls, which include approximately 165 beds, received new roofs, mechanical systems, fire alarms, sprinklers, furniture, lighting and new lounge spaces and study areas.

Also this fall, two new restaurants will open in the Campus Center including Caliente CAB and Sbarro's. In addition, Zepp's Sandwich Shoppe has relocated, almost doubled in size, and offers an expanded menu featuring hot and cold subs and salads. Hudson River Bank and Trust Co. opened a full-service branch (with an ATM) in the Campus Center and also installed an ATM in the Lecture Center area. For more information, visit and

"We recognize that our students' experiences extend beyond the classroom, and as we improve their quality of life throughout the campus, we improve their academic experiences as well. From large scale projects such as apartment-style living at the newly constructed Empire Commons and major rehabs of our current residence halls, to expanding restaurant options in our Campus Center, we continually aim to meet the needs of our students on every level," said Hitchcock.

This fall, the University's incoming class, consisting of 2,100 traditional freshmen, was drawn from 17,316 applicants. The class has an average high school GPA of 90 and mean SAT scores 15 points higher than last year's scores. 200 Presidential Scholars are in the incoming class, compared to 173 last year, and more than 100 College Scholars, up from 87 last year.

Established in 1844 and designated a center of the State University of New York in 1962, the University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages 17,000 diverse students in eight degree-granting schools and colleges. The University is engaged in a $500 million fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in its history, with the goal of placing it among the nation's top 30 public research universities by the end of the decade. For more information about this nationally ranked University, visit

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