Collaboration and innovation are themes of the newly renovated Dinsdale Family Learning Commons as it reopens to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s students, faculty and staff on Jan. 27. The privately funded renovation upgrades an East Campus landmark into a technology-rich collaborative environment and hub for innovation, research and learning.
The $22.5 million renovation of the former C.Y. Thompson Library was funded entirely by private donors. Husker alumni and philanthropists Ruth and Bill Scott of Omaha provided a challenge gift to encourage others to invest in the project and to offer the option for naming the new student commons.
The Dinsdale family of Nebraska responded with a major gift commitment, made by Sid Dinsdale, Chris Dinsdale and Jane Dinsdale Rogers in honor of their father, Roy G. Dinsdale; and by Lynn Dinsdale Marchese and Tom Dinsdale in honor of their father, the late John “Jack” A. Dinsdale.
Several other individuals and organizations supported the project through gifts to the University of Nebraska Foundation.
“We are grateful to the Scotts, the Dinsdale family and all of the generous donors for making this investment in Nebraska students,” said Claire Stewart, dean of libraries. “This transformation and the activity within the Dinsdale Family Learning Commons will be a catalyst for exciting research and learning.”
The completion of the Dinsdale Family Learning Commons connects the new west entrance to the Legacy Plaza, an East Campus green space project launched under the direction of Chancellor Ronnie Green while he served as vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“By embracing our vision of a new student learning commons on East Campus, Ruth and Bill Scott and the Dinsdale family, along with a host of other donors, have generously helped us create a world-class 21st-century learning space,” Green said. “This will be a busy, active anchor facility that will support generations of our students across UNL as they pursue success in their education at Nebraska’s flagship university. Its opening is a great day for our university.”
The building offers students a choice between active and quiet places in which to study, with a selection of pods, individual study spaces and six group study spaces, four named for donors: Mark and Debra Classen, B. Keith and Norma Heuermann, Thomas and Linda Hoegemeyer, and Frank Sibert and his late wife Shirley Sibert.
One of the first striking changes visitors will notice is the natural light that flows through windows that run from roofline to ground level. The spacious, glass-walled Kimmel Foundation Room, a focal point of the first floor, can be reserved by the campus community for educational opportunities. Dave and Sharron Stock provided support for the Stock Seed Farms Family Room, a large second-floor, interactive classroom designed for faculty and students to develop greater critical facility with all forms of information.
In the center of the building, a feature called the Learning Stair is equipped with integrated technology and a sound system for pop-up programming, tours, studying and collaboration.
The first floor includes a digital exhibit for the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement, a University Police substation, and a One Button Studio for recording lectures and presentations.
The lower level retains the name of Charles Yoder Thompson (1875-1970), an NU alumnus and agricultural expert who served 24 years on the Board of Regents. Accessible through a new entrance on the east, the lower level includes the East Campus Exam Commons, with 36 computer stations and three private rooms for student testing.
The Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program occupies two-thirds of the second floor, with five classrooms, a makerspace and other facilities. Program director Tom Field recalled when Engler students met with Nancy Busch, then dean of libraries, in January 2015 to begin envisioning a space to ignite innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
“For generations to come, enterprises, partnership and visions of a brighter future will spring forth from that space — oh, the stories these walls will be able to tell,” Field said. “We are grateful and humbled to be able to begin our journey in the Dinsdale Learning Commons.”
Tiffany Heng-Moss, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, is grateful for the energy and vitality the completion of this project will bring to campus.
“The Dinsdale Learning Commons will be the heart of East Campus — a place where students discover the power of collaboration and dream up new ideas, alumni reminisce about their college experiences, and stakeholders consider the future of the university and our state,” Heng-Moss said.
In conjunction with the Dinsdale Family Learning Commons’ opening, University Libraries also is unveiling an expanded research and teaching program addressing the information, data and scholarly communication needs of East Campus and Nebraska Innovation Campus communities.
Michael Boehm, vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, considers the Dinsdale Family Learning Commons as a cornerstone of East Campus and a powerful reminder of the university’s commitment to IANR and Nebraska agriculture.
“We are grateful for this beautiful building, which will house the library, the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneur Program and the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement, and we’re eternally thankful to the Dinsdale family, Ruth and Bill Scott and all of the generous donors who made this possible,” Boehm said.
The building’s study spaces will follow current COVID-19 guidelines for safe social distancing. The book collection, currently in storage, will be moved into the lower level of Dinsdale in summer 2021. Future plans for 2021 include adding a first-floor cafe and formally dedicating the building.
The Dinsdale Family Learning Commons hours of operation will be Sunday to Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Learn more.