Classroom Summer Makeovers

Photo of blueprints for Olson project.
Olson Hall project blueprints. (Photo: Duke McAdow/UC Davis)

This summer, seven of the campus’ 128 general assignment classrooms are getting a makeover.

The classrooms – all in Olson Hall – are being updated floor to ceiling with fresh paint, lighting upgrades, new flooring, updated window coverings, and the latest in audio/video equipment.

Photo of new classroom equipment staged for installation.“It’s so much better to walk into a pleasant environment,” said Matt Traxler, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Planning in the Office of Undergraduate Education and Professor of Psychology. “And fewer distractions mean students can focus on learning.”

Earlier this spring, Traxler launched the Classrooms Workgroup to bring together folks who want better classrooms with the departments that do the work. The group was charged with expediting the renovation process to ensure classrooms offline for the summer would be remodeled in time for the start of the academic year.

“We had to plan and launch a summer renovation project on a short timeline,” explained Traxler. “Having the design and facilities teams in the room was invaluable. Everyone was willing to pitch in and went above and beyond to get the job done.”

Representatives from Facilities Management and Design and Construction Management – both units of the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer – serve on the Classrooms Workgroup, and have worked side-by-side to execute an aggressive classroom renovation schedule this summer.

“This is a great example of collaboration, resource stewardship and customer service, all in support of the academic mission,” said Dave Lawlor, UC Davis’ Chief Financial Officer ­– the organization responsible for designing, building and maintaining the university’s infrastructure.

By working together, the Classrooms Workgroup has been able to expedite and control costs for the seven ongoing renovation projects.

Photo of electricians at work in Olson Hall.“Collaboration was critical to the success on all of our classroom renovations,” said Catherine Buscaglia, director of minor capital projects with DCM. “It was a pleasure to see the bee hive of activity at Olson this summer with all of the units working side-by-side as a team. The Project Manager Scott Slayton was pivotal in getting this amount of construction accomplished during a tight summer window allowing enough time for the technology improvements to follow.”

The summer renovation project is part of a larger plan to strategically and systematically renovate all 128 general assignment classrooms on campus at least once every 10 years.

“We’re moving toward a process at UC Davis where we can systematically address where the greatest needs exist, prioritize based on condition and usage, and make sure every classroom gets a remodel on a regular basis,” described Traxler.

This year’s pilot of eight classrooms – seven this summer and one more during winter break – is focused on developing protocols and standardizing cost per square foot.

The project is funded through the Provost’s office, and the work done by VC-CFO and IET employees. This year, about $2.1 million is being invested to renovate high-priority, heavy-use classrooms.

“We always appreciate the opportunity to work with our campus partners to complete projects,” explained Allen Tollefson, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management. “We strive to provide exceptional customer service, and are pleased with the work our skilled employees completed to enhance teaching and learning for UC Davis students and faculty.”

Currently, the Classrooms Workgroup is developing a process and principles for gathering input from faculty and eventually from students to prioritize the renovation schedule.

“We want to hear from our faculty community to determine what classrooms should go to the top of the list,” said Traxler, who plans to work with Student Affairs to find a way to solicit input from students as well.

An annual survey, conducted by the Office of the University Registrar, revealed approximately 21% of faculty rate classroom space as poor, with 56% calling it just “ok.”

In addition to prioritizing the classrooms with the greatest needs, the Classrooms Workgroup is also wrestling with reimagining the future of teaching and learning space, including the right mix of traditional teaching space (theater seating) versus flexible learning space (smaller, interactive seating). And technology advisors are examining applications that will allow lectures to be captured digitally, allowing students to review material as it was delivered in class.

“The needs of the different colleges vary greatly, and we want to ensure we have the right mix of functional classrooms to meet the diverse uses,” said Traxler.

The Classrooms Workgroup includes representatives from IET’s Academic Technology Services, Facilities Management, Design and Construction Management, Office of Undergraduate Education, and the Office of the University Registrar, and reports regularly to the Academic Senate.

Starting in the fall, the Classrooms Workgroup is recruiting additional members to complete work on the process, principles and schedule for next summer.


BreAnda Northcutt is Communications Director for the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, the organization responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of university buildings.