Harris, in a New Light

Harris personnel and students walking into the school’s building this fall are finding their work and social spaces literally in a new light.
A major renovation to the Harris facility has transformed enclosed spaces once lit by fluorescent bulbs into welcoming areas washed in natural light. Office spaces have been expanded and streamlined, and a larger, more comfortable lounge on the lower level will be well equipped to meet students’ changing needs.
“The Harris School is committed to providing the next generation of public, private and nonprofit leaders a space that best reflects the Harris brand and the amazing work that happens at the school,” says Misho Ceko, chief operating officer of the Harris School. “We made significant improvements to the current facility, especially the common areas, to accommodate an aggressive growth plan and provide students a place to come together to tackle the latest public policy challenges."
Right away, someone walking in on the north side of the building will notice a new entrance hall between the dean’s wing and the cafe. Offices that once hid the expansive windows have been moved, and ceilings have been opened to allow in natural light. The area will be a welcoming new place for meetups or a cup of coffee before class.
To the south of the entrance hall are three strips of administrative offices for staff in the student affairs, admissions and career development departments. The addition of about a dozen offices in that area and on the second floor will bring together colleagues who had previously been spread far and wide, sometimes on multiple floors.
One of the most significant changes is the new student lounge. The amenities are a significant step up from the smaller lounge areas that had been spread across two floors and offered little more than tables and chairs. The University turned over some space on the building’s lower level that used to house servers, storage, and offices to allow for an open floor plan that can be used for everything from quiet reading to large group meetings and seminars. Once again, large windows allow daylight to stream into the room.
Students who need to remove themselves from distractions in the lounge can hide away in one of the corner nooks or at a desk cubicle. The middle of the room is equipped with stools, chairs, tables and white board easels that can be easily rearranged. Students can work, print, or surf the web in the computer lab opposite the north wall and store or prepare food in the large kitchen area.
“The new student lounge caters to all of the needs of our students,” says Jeremy Edwards, senior associate dean of academic and student affairs. “We decided to embrace a modular design for the area, so the lounge can be adapted for various learning opportunities, including guest speakers, seminars, workshops and social events. The new space is modern and comfortable, contemporary and functional. We can’t wait to see how the students use it.”
More changes are forthcoming. The unoccupied office spaces in the building will accommodate additional staff and faculty that will be hired as part of the school’s continuing expansion. Copy areas have been tucked away to open usable space. And this winter, the dean’s wing will be upgraded.
Within three years, Harris will move into a larger building—the Keller Center, named for University Trustee Dennis J. Keller, MBA’68, who donated $20 million to the school in 2014. But  in the meantime, the renovation to the current facility allows the school to push forward with an ambitious expansion plan that includes doubling overall activity by 2020 and expanding the ranks of both faculty and students.
—Brian Wallheimer