Longwood's newest academic building is coming to life this semester. Allen Hall is both a state-of-the-art teaching and learning space, and a handsome contribution to the classical architectural style of Longwood’s elegant campus.
It also embodies the mission of Longwood’s distinctive Civitae Core Curriculum, which engages all students in collaborative and interdisciplinary work to prepare them to be citizen leaders.
Allen Hall, funded entirely by the Commonwealth, opened to students this semester, featuring versatile classrooms, laboratories, faculty offices, and study rooms, as well as dedicated spaces for Longwood’s Center for Faculty Enrichment (CAFE) and Digital Education Collaborative (DEC). Allen Hall not only expands upon the learning resources and academic spaces available to Longwood’s students and faculty, but also accelerates the widespread impact Civitae will have on the University.
Learning is a communal experience – whether it is student-to-student, student-to-faculty or faculty-to-faculty. Allen Hall provides both formal and informal venues for that communal experience to happen.Dr. Larissa Smith, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tweet This
“One of the main tenets of Civitae is to teach students how to address real-world, civic issues from multiple perspectives,” said Dr. Larissa Smith, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “To do that, our students need critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, and exposure to disciplines outside of their chosen fields of study.
“Allen Hall captures that mission of academic collaboration, and that is very much by design."
With its white columns, red-brick exterior and elegant but welcoming interior design, the 42,000-square foot building also reinforces the grandeur and beauty of Longwood’s central campus. The project was designed by Glavé & Holmes Architecture and constructed by Jamerson-Lewis Construction, the same teams responsible for Longwood’s Radcliff Hall admissions building that opened in November of 2019.
Within Allen Hall, the expanded learning spaces have also helped Longwood spread out classes and provide classroom space with social distancing this semester. Since Allen Hall’s opening at the start of the fall semester, students and faculty have made use of its spacious hallways, modern classrooms and study areas. Those spaces have been inaugurated with courses ranging from natural sciences to communication studies, kinesiology, and sociology, as well as areas designated specifically for faculty professional development.
PHOTOS: Take a look inside Allen Hall
“In achieving an interdisciplinary experience for our students and faculty, it’s important to consider the academic environment outside the classroom as much as inside of it,” Smith said.
“Learning is a communal experience – whether it is student-to-student, student-to-faculty or faculty-to-faculty. Allen Hall provides both formal and informal venues for that communal experience to happen. From its architectural layout to the disciplines represented within the building, it is a place where our students and educators can put into practice the interdisciplinary spirit at the core of Civitae and a residential liberal arts education.”
At four stories tall and fitting seamlessly into Longwood’s existing architectural aesthetic, a tour through the Allen Building offers a snapshot of the diversity of disciplines Longwood has to offer.
On the first floor, students can examine the intricacies of a body in motion inside the biomechanics lab, while down the hall others can monitor the electrical activity of a heart in the electrophysiology lab or deep-dive into data in the quantitative reasoning center. On the second floor, communication studies students can critique their work on multiple projection screens in a state-of-the art classroom, while on the third floor others can explore the Harvill-Stevens Herbarium that maintains the largest collection of Virginia native species of any entity in the Commonwealth.
“I’ve been telling people it’s the Cadillac of academic buildings on campus, and it really is,” said Professor Jeff Halliday, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Communication Studies, and a new resident of Allen Hall.
One of the most important things to keep in mind as faculty is that our students exist in a complete academic experience on our campus. Oftentimes we spend our time focusing solely on the things that benefit them the most within our discipline. The opportunity to be down the hall or above or below someone who is a quintessential resource – whether it’s the quantitative center, CAFE, DEC – the opportunity to be able to have those conversations and make those partnerships come to life within the building is a real asset and one that we look forward to taking great advantage of.”
The consolidated resources within Allen Hall have been a boon not only to students, but also to Longwood’s faculty, who are not only experts in their disciplines, but highly skilled and versatile teachers as well. Their dedication to improving their pedagogical skills has been demonstrated in the multi-year rollout of the Civitae curriculum, and has been tested in the shift to online learning due to the pandemic in the spring semester.
The Digital Education Collaborative, which supports faculty in incorporating virtual learning pedagogies into their courses, has a new home on the second floor. With a walk-up service window, students, too, can seek help with online learning from the DEC. On the third floor, the Center for Faculty Enrichment has a beautifully appointed space to conduct faculty workshops and hold formal and informal gatherings. From the start of the project, dedicating a significant portion of Allen Hall to faculty development has been a priority of Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV, and the result is the signature center located on the top floor.
“President Reveley wanted to make sure the faculty had a space that was conducive to collaboration but in a relaxed setting,” said Kim Bass, Director of Facilities. “The area for CAFE on the top floor is very finished, very classical. It feels rich when you go in there and provides an opportunity to regroup. It’s a large enough and versatile enough space that it can be used for formal professional development sessions with CAFE or just a place to gather and converse.
“It’s really one of the highlights of Allen Hall, and it fills a need that was identified and reiterated throughout the planning process for the building.”
The furniture adds to the versatility of the entire building as well, with classrooms and study areas all furnished with an array of movable pieces conducive to varied and collaborative instruction.
“The facilities themselves lend to that,” Halliday said of the versatility and creativity faculty and students are afforded within Allen Hall.
“If we were previously looking for an opportunity to partner with another department, finding space on campus that we had scheduling control over would have been more challenging. Now we have massive classrooms within the building – the Allen 101 room, for example, is huge – and they’re all flexible. The desks and the spaces really give you a lot of opportunities to do some creative things in the classroom.”
It’s fitting that such a signature building for Longwood’s campus be named after one of its most distinguished and transformative professors in Dr. Edna Allen Bledsoe Dean. She served the university for more than three decades as a member of the social work faculty before retiring with emerita status in 2004.
Most recently awarded the prestigious Horace Mann Honorary Alumni Award, Allen’s legacy also includes an endowed scholarship and a long list of students forever impacted by her influence in their lives.
Now the namesake of a multi-purpose learning center that is the heartbeat of Longwood’s long-term educational mission, that list will continue to grow.