W&L center aims to be a ‘window to the world’

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The Center for Global Learning is scheduled to open in 2016.
Rendering courtesy Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University is furthering its emphasis on international studies with the May groundbreaking of its new Center for Global Learning. The center will give students a “window to the world,” says Laurent Boetsch, director of the university’s Center for International Education. “This fits with our culture. It will bring the Washington & Lee community together.”

The $13.5 million center, targeted to open in January 2016, will connect 8,600 renovated square feet of the existing duPont Hall with a new 17,700-square-foot building. It will house classrooms, seminar rooms and instructional labs. It also will house several language departments, offices for visiting international scholars and the Office of International Education.

Public areas will include an atrium, garden, courtyard and international tea shop. These gathering spaces “will encourage student and faculty interaction” as well as provide a venue for special events and exhibits, Boetsch says.

The university began taking a strategic look at global learning in 2008 as a way to help its students prepare to work and live in a “global and diverse society,” Boetsch says. “We wanted to integrate global learning across all of the disciplines and schools at Washington and Lee and ensure that all of our students understand the global aspects of their discipline.”

The new center will be the hub of the school’s global learning effort. “It will be a marketplace for ideas as well as the interchange of ideas that cut across boundaries,” Boetsch says. Classrooms will be open to anyone on campus. “It is a campuswide building with spaces where students and faculty can work.”

During the planning process, school officials visited a variety of buildings on other campuses, including Duke, William & Mary and the University of Richmond, to look at their functionality. “We knew we wanted our building to have a natural engagement space where people can wander around and engage in conversations,” Boetsch says.

Students from 40 countries attend Washington and Lee, and almost half of the student body studies abroad or performs an international internship.

As of this writing the fund­raising campaign has raised $10.2 million toward its $11.5 million goal — $2 million of the project was generated by internal sources. Fundraising efforts are part of the continuing $500 million Honor Our Past, Build Our Future capital campaign. “We think the new center will be the centerpiece that will represent a new kind of Washington and Lee education,” Boetsch says. “It will be the place that helps students prepare for living in the world.”

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