HMC Unveils Shanahan Center

While a cafe selling Starbucks products may have drawn most of the 5C attention to the R. Michael Shanahan Center which was completed this summer at Harvey Mudd College, the new building contributes more than just caffeine to the academic and extracurricular life at HMC. 

The 70,000-square foot building, which cost the school $41 million, contains lecture and performance halls, conference rooms, and high-tech classrooms. 

“The last academic building we built on campus was in the 1990s,” said Jeffrey Groves, HMC Dean of the Faculty. In the past, he said, “we had just enough classrooms for all the courses [at HMC].” 

The classrooms in the new building relieve crowding in older academic buildings, allowing for more lab space, especially in the older buildings. 

Wendy Menefee-Libey, Director of both the HMC Writing Center and the Academic Excellence program, said the new building “is full of classrooms with technology—everything from easily movable furniture to lecture capture and document camera equipment.”  

The new classrooms offer something else HMC students may find unusual in a classroom setting: windows. 

“We were mostly underground or inside a building without windows,” Joana Perdomo HM ’16 said about the classes she took at HMC last year. 

The basement level of the building contains a new recital hall, courtyard, and gallery. 

“The recital hall and gallery are things we never had before … We were never able to host [musical] events on campus,” Groves said. 

The lowest level also holds classrooms, a 300-person lecture hall, and an open-air stage in the style of a Greek theater.

The cafe on the first floor of the building offers a limited menu of Starbucks products at reduced prices. 

“[It] is a nice place to sit around, especially in the mornings,” Peter Oren HM ’15 said.

In addition to the cafe, the first floor of the Shanahan Center houses the top portion of the 300-person lecture hall, a 50-person classroom, and the HMC Offices of Admission and Financial Aid, which were formerly located in Kingston Hall. The Writing Center is also located on the first floor.

Menefee-Libey said that the new Center’s three private conference rooms help keep the noise level down on busy nights and make it easier to meet with teams of writers working on a project.

The second floor of the building houses the Mathematics Department and faculty offices, as well as classrooms and break-out rooms where students can move around and participate in discussions about class material.

“It is nice to have an academic space shared by everyone, which fits our philosophy of a common core,” HMC mathematics professor Rachel Levy wrote in an e-mail to TSL. 

The third floor has even more classrooms, as well as rooftop gardens and an outdoor classroom. The gardens include native plant species and drought-resistant varieties along with a few citrus trees.

These features are part of the building’s sustainable design, which is certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a program by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

“The fact that we have worked hard to create a LEED-certified building fits well with the mission of the college to be aware of the impact of our work on society,” Levy wrote.

Construction plans for the Shanahan Center are based on LEED Gold standards and aim toward a LEED Platinum rating in the future, fulfilling the criteria of the President’s Climate Commitment that guarantees that every new building on HMC’s campus will meet at least LEED Silver standards of sustainability. HMC President Maria Klaw signed the commitment in 2008.

Describing the building’s architecture, Groves said, “The building shares certain characteristics with the rest of the buildings, like the horizontality.” The color palate also complements the other buildings on campus so the Shanahan Center fits in with the architecture style that already exists on campus.

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