New Space for a New Educational Model

Case Western Reserve University, The Roger E. Susi First-Year Engineering Experience

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Cleveland, OH | 7,300 SF

Space for a unique program helps connect students early to academic pursuits and their peers.
The renovated space for the Roger E. Susi First-Year Experience allows first-year engineering student to develop their academic interests and social connections by working collaboratively on different projects.

Intellectual exchanges that begin early in a student’s college career can lead to innovation breakthroughs as they approach graduation. The Roger E. Susi First-Year Engineering Experience at Case Western Reserve University helps extend those initial exchanges beyond the lab bench. The program helps teach first-year engineering students to do things, not just know things, by challenging them to work together and test potential solutions to real-world issues. This approach introduces students to different engineering disciplines so they can find the one they’re most passionate about. The collaborative, hands-on approach helps them form social connections.

What was once underutilized space...
...has become a learning hub for first-year engineering students.

What was once a basement machine shop on campus now hosts a weekly circulation of 600 students into the lab and adjacent study space. The program’s curriculum was still forming as design began, so space planning had to be flexible and adaptable to support different types of work and help an incoming class of strangers feel familiar with each other as soon as possible. Placing student lounges and study space mere steps from the lab helps students extend the intellectual exchanges that begin over course work.

Finding space for students to connect, work, and socialize immediately after class was a priority for this project.

Bringing natural light into the lower-level lab space was a priority. Warm wood accents, a biophilic color palette, and an interconnecting stair that encourages movement help promote a sense of well-being in the lounge spaces adjacent to the lab; interior transparency helps pull daylight throughout the space. The new space also enhances equity with the addition of a gender-neutral restroom.

Great ideas grow in labs, but they’re born over coffee. The Roger E. Susi First-Year Engineering Experience fosters a meeting of great minds at the bench and beyond.

The design maximizes use of a relatively small space by thoughtfully carving out collaboration space adjacent to the lab.