A new building near Utah State University’s campus Quad will house all of the school’s language programs in one.
The plans, including an artist’s rendering of the structure, were unveiled by USU in a news release Thursday. The building will be known as the Mehdi Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center, named after an Iranian native who received two degrees at the university before becoming a college administrator and philanthropist.
“He has been incredibly generous over the years,” said Joe Ward, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in an interview on Friday. “Given his life and career has been international, and so many of his interests have involved building bridges among people, we thought this building would be an appropriate way to recognize him.”
The new building comes as Ward’s college undergoes academic restructuring. The department of languages, philosophy and communications studies will become two departments, including one called “world languages and cultures.” That department, along with a unit known as the Intensive English Language Institute, will be housed in the Heravi Center. Various academic-oriented amenities, including computer labs and study centers, will also be included.
“It’s a tremendous investment by the state in language instruction,” Ward said. “It’s a recognition that Utah’s economy is increasingly global. We want our students, whatever career paths they’re going to take, we want them to be comfortable and competent interacting with people from different language traditions and different cultures.”
The building is a long time coming, given it was approved by the Legislature last year, but construction was delayed due to coronavirus-related budget cuts. Ultimately, the center received $14.5 million in state funds and $2.5 million from private sources, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“When the coronavirus pandemic was really emerging, none of us knew how it would affect our operations,” Ward said. “I think the state was wise to have delayed the project. But I very much appreciate their support now.”
The artist’s rendering of the building posted on the USU website is conceptual only, Ward said, and the facility could take a different form when it’s construction. It is still not known when the building will even be finished, but the dean has been told “if all goes well” the project could begin in earnest in early 2022.
The Heravi Center is expected to be located on the southwest corner of the Quad.
“It would be that front corner of the parking lot closest to where (the) Ray B. West (building) is, and then using some of that land that would be opened up by straightening Champ Drive,” Ward said.
The Heravi Center is designed to solve numerous issues CHaSS is facing when it comes to instruction. One is the fact that the languages, philosophy and communications studies department is based in Old Main, but classes take place in four different buildings.
Two professors with the English Language Institute expressed some challenges with teaching and talked about how a new building would benefit them.
Associate Professor Ekaterina (Katya) Arshavskaya, who teaches with the English Language Institute, said it is “a bit tricky” to teach in different buildings.
“Sometimes 10-min breaks between classes were not enough for me and the students to get from one building to another (unless we had some very athletic students),” she wrote in an email. “Also, at the beginning of the semester new students were often lost and could not find the right building or the room.”
Marta Halaczkiewicz, senior lecturer in the department of languages, philosophy and communications studies, said even though breaks between classes are about 15 minutes, trying to get from one building to the next could be “quite a feat.” She had to “build in some flexibility into my classes to accommodate late arrivals.”
“What complicated the situation was also the unfamiliarity of my students with campus combined with their English language skills,” Halaczkiewicz wrote. “The beginning of the semester was marked by IELI students lost and unable to find their classes, missing important material and information sometimes for a week, which in this intensive schedule is a lot.”
Informed of the professors’ concerns by the newspaper, Ward said he hoped that consolidating all language instruction alongside the Quad “will create a stronger sense of identity for language instruction.”
“They will very readily identify with that space,” he said. “Old Main is a great building, but it’s complicated and it can be a little confusing for people to find their way around.”
Halaczkiewicz is optimistic the new building will offer more than any of the other buildings ever could.
“We hope that the classrooms will be designed and equipped to accommodate unique needs of language learners, including technology as well as space,” she wrote. “The new place also promises more space for international and cultural exchanges. Be it social spaces or club locations, it will let IELI students mingle, provide an opportunity for language practice and find a place they feel welcome.”
Arshavskaya says the new building will make it easier for her students to locate their classes and provide more opportunities for departmental interaction.
“Perhaps it can help build stronger relationships and a sense of camaraderie and unity among faculty, staff, and students,” she wrote.