New Spaces, New Possibilities

Artist rendering of renovated USD Copley Library


In more ways than one, the University of San Diego has experienced a Renaissance.

Initially, it was due to an endeavor known as the Renaissance Plan, a plan to not just renovate some of the original and most cherished spaces on campus but to also construct new buildings to enhance learning and the overall student experience.

A key phase of that plan was already in motion when COVID-19 hit, which included the renovation of Copley Library as well as the construction of the Learning Commons, USD’s newest academic building. Both buildings will be completed in the fall.

These new spaces will transform how professors are teaching and how students are learning. It’s transforming how spaces are used, how technology is accessed, where students sit and how they interact with their peers and their professors.

“Our full-time enrollment of students had grown by more than 1,200, and that growth has far outpaced our classroom space for USD’s College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Business,” says Vice Provost Tom Herrinton, PhD. “Each of those schools needed approximately 50,000 additional assignable square feet of classroom spaces to accommodate their needs. So it was definitely time to grow.”

The renovated Copley Library (pictured above in an artist’s rendering) provides places for active learning, teaching, collaboration and research, as well as spaces for classes, group projects, discussions, events and exhibits.

The renovation offers 38 small group study rooms, individual seating for 1,000 users, a lounge/reading room and five individual study spaces in the Camino Hall stacks. It also features expanded exhibit, gallery and display spaces, three new library instruction rooms, two seminar rooms and a presentation room, as well as a faculty reading room, a journal reading room and university archives and special collections. The Mother Hill Reading Room, one of the most beloved spaces on campus, remains unchanged.

“My hope is that the entire campus community will be awed by the new environment and spaces we’ve created to support their studies, their research and their quest for knowledge,” says Theresa S. Byrd, EdD, dean of Copley Library.

Artist rendition of USD's new Learning Commons space

Artist rendering of USD’s new Learning Commons space

Located adjacent to Copley Library is a new two-story, 36,000-square-foot building known as the Learning Commons. It features nine collaborative study spaces and 13 classrooms and will host classes, study groups, work teams and solo exploration. It will also be home to some of USD’s most treasured programs, including the Honors Program and USD’s Writing Center.

At the heart of it all will be a creative and dynamic Town Square, an informal gathering space featuring stadium seating for up to 200 people, encircled by a second-story observation gallery and equipped with the latest in sound and video technology for presentations, films, and other events.

While USD moved to a remote learning format for the fall semester, when it is safe to return to campus these new buildings will give USD additional options for course delivery, making it possible to offer both remote-only and mixed or hybrid learning models. “As we work toward managing physical distancing, when the time comes for students to return to campus, these extra classrooms and study spaces help us meet this new challenge,” says Chief Operations Officer and Vice President of Operations Ky Snyder.

“I am grateful to the Fall 2020 Task Force for their diligence and commitment in creating contingency plans for multiple scenarios,” says Provost Gail F. Baker. “We all have a shared responsibility to prioritize our commitments to health, safety and the well-being of our community.” — Krystn Shrieve

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