The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 16, 2002
September 16, 2002
VOL. 32, NO. 3


Hodson Hall Opens Its Doors

'Awesome' and 'hip' say students of Homewood's state-of-the-art facility

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

When the Hodson Trust donated funds to the university for a new Homewood academic building, one of its stated goals was to create a space that treated students as professionals. Well, if Hodson Hall, which opened its doors this month, is a peek into the real word, students might get impatient waiting for graduation day.

While students and faculty alike delighted in the new building's sleek and bright interior, it was the splashy, multimedia-friendly classrooms that had some literally spinning in their seats.

During the first full week of classes, Kenny Ching, Seth Townsend, Daniel Callahan and Katie Ruocco take a break in one of Hodson Hall's many seating areas.

In car-dealership terms, most of Hodson Hall's rooms come fully loaded, but even the baseline models are bursting with high-tech, multiplex cinemalike amenities. Standard room specs include tiered seating, wall-to-wall carpeting, a JBL sound system, data and power ports, wireless Internet access and either swivel or reclinable chairs. Instructors, meanwhile, can control from a touch-screen podium a Dell Pentium-4 PC work station, dual-projection screen, CD/DVD player, VCR, document camera, slide-to-video converter and dual audio cassette deck. Even the window blinds and lights can be adjusted with the touch of a finger.

"It's the most technologically advanced classroom space here. It's certainly up there," said Katie Ruocco, a sophomore whose Cellular Tissue Engineering course meets in one of Hodson Hall's medium-sized classrooms. "I couldn't help playing with the computer hook-ups. And I think the swivel chairs are just great."

One of Ruocco's fellow classmates called the new building "very hip," while another had an even more enthusiastic reaction.

"The building is awesome," said Alicia Atwood, a junior. "It's the best building on campus, definitely."

The 44,200-square-foot Hodson Hall features nine classrooms, three lecture halls and one supersized auditorium. In total, the building can seat 1,010 students at any given time. Located on the third floor is a boardroom where both the Hodson Trust's and the university's boards of trustees will hold their meetings, the first such dedicated meeting space for the JHU board.

Homewood's newest addition also houses the historic records of the Hodson Trust and Beneficial Corp., reading rooms, open spaces and instructional technology services.

Designed by the Hillier architectural firm, the new Hodson Hall is adjacent to Clark Hall, which opened last year. It will be dedicated in October.

Robert Lindgren, vice president for development and alumni relations, called the donation that made the construction of the new building possible "absolutely terrific."

"The Hodson Trust was very generous both in terms of their financial support and in terms of their input into the design and construction of the building, which resulted in an even better facility," Lindgren said. "Their interest was to have this building be a first-class facility in every way. I would say they were successful."

The Hodson Trust was established in 1920 by the family of Beneficial Corp. founder Col. Clarence Hodson. The trust annually awards grants that benefit four Maryland educational institutions: Johns Hopkins University and Hood, St. John's and Washington colleges.

The three-story Hodson Hall was designed by the Hillier architectural firm of Princeton, N.J., and stands adjacent to Clark Hall, just west of Garland. It will be used by students from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering and the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.

Steven Knapp, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the new building, which will be dedicated officially on Oct. 29, pushes the boundaries of the Hopkins learning experience.

"It's a great boon to the campus to have such an aesthetically attractive and useful environment for teaching," Knapp said. "It's the first building here at Homewood that was designed from the ground up to be technologically prepared for the most advanced types of courses, in all fields, that our faculty are teaching. We here at Hopkins like to be innovative, and this wonderful building is certainly in keeping with that tradition."

Graham Bouton, technology services manager for Hopkins ITS, who worked on the project, said that as a dedicated classroom space, Hodson Hall stands alone on the Homewood campus in terms of its amenities.

"The building has the maximum level of technology you can reasonably expect without going to the absolute extreme," Bouton said. "There is a high level of capability in each room so that if an instructor has a session in one room and another session in a different one, he or she can expect to use the same interface and the same equipment."

The university has hired two full-time support personnel to address the needs of faculty who use the classrooms, Bouton said.

Given the initial response from faculty, Hodson Hall figures to be in great demand.

"Anyone who is using technology in their instruction will want in," said Steve Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences whose Sensation and Perception class meets in the building. "In my course I use a lot of audio and video presentations, [some with] computer-driven animations, and I need to push the limits of the available technology. In this room I can just plug in my laptop and I'm ready to go."

The building's flagship space is perhaps the first-floor auditorium, which can seat nearly 500 students and features active Internet and power ports on all the chairs. Faculty who use the immense room can opt to be remotely miked, ensuring that even those in the back of the room will hear every syllable.

Benjamin Ginsberg, who teaches Introduction to American Politics in the auditorium, said that even those who don't take full advantage of the technology at their disposal should find Hodson Hall inviting.

"The building and the auditorium are wonderful, and it's a pleasure to teach there," Ginsberg said. "Despite all the technology, Hodson is a warm and congenial classroom building."