New Center for Engaged Liberal Arts Under Construction in Mudd Center Basement


Mads Olsen

The new Center for Engaged Liberal Arts in the basement of Mudd Center will be under construction until spring 2022.

Nationwide supply chain disruptions have delayed construction of the Center for Engaged Liberal Arts in the basement of Mudd Center, which the College aims to be an innovative hub for student centered programs. However, project managers hope that the new home for several critical academic and experiential learning offices will be operational in spring 2022.

The first phase of the project, which was originally scheduled to wrap up this month, will house the offices for Career Development Center, Fellowships and Awards, Undergraduate Research, as well as for the Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources, Peer Advising Leaders, Study Away, and Winter Term programs. The second phase’s completion date is yet to be determined and will involve work on the section that will house the Bonner Center for Service and Learning.

The College has contracted with Makovich & Pusti Architects, Inc. and Infinity Construction Company to create the new center. According to Steve Jouriles, principal at Makovich & Pusti Architects, supply chain disruptions have delayed construction, and it is likely that the construction company will miss the delayed Jan. 7 deadline for completion. Jouriles hopes that the first phase can end March 2022, allowing construction of the northern Bonner Center section to begin. The 25,000-square-foot project will have valuable impacts on student life, both through its central location and the important services it will provide.

The decision to create CELA came directly from the 2019 One Oberlin report, with the intention of bringing together offices and programs that better support learning in a space that is more accessible to students.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Kamitsuka shared the highlights of the new plan for the library.

“The idea is to bring together offices and programs that support integrative and experiential learning in a student-centered and centrally-located space,” he wrote in an email to the Review. “The raison d’être of CELA is to support students’ self-discovery through on-campus programming, internships, fellowships, undergraduate research, community-based learning, peer cohort mentoring, and educational travel.”

Kamitsuka also described how the open-plan design of the center will bolster collaboration and exploration for both students and staff.

“CELA has great spaces for students to study, do group work, and hold small and large meetings,” he wrote.

There will also be gender-neutral bathrooms and a new, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose lecture hall, which Makovich & Pusti Architects describes as the “centerpiece” of the new facility.

“It will be a wonderful enhancement to the educational activities happening in Mary Church Terrell Main Library upstairs,” Kamitsuka wrote.

Chief Facilities Officer Kevin Brown added that CELA will enhance the education students are already getting in the classroom.

“It takes what you’re learning in your courses and puts it into practice through internships, research, study away experiences, Winter Term, career exploration, and beyond,” he wrote in an email to the Review.

He also provided a progress update on CELA construction. While it has mostly been on track, there have been setbacks.

“The construction is going well,” Brown wrote. “The project timeline has been impacted by the current nationwide supply chain issues. Most of those issues have been addressed, and we are projecting an opening of CELA during the spring term.”

In the meantime, students visiting Mudd Center can continue to expect construction. Those eagerly awaiting the future hub for student success can visit Makovich & Pusti Architects’ website, which has digital projections of how the CELA will look.