Union lab celebrates semester grand opening

Emma Polen | News Editor | Caroline Veltri, freshman, sits in one of the study spaces inside the collaboration commons, Union 112. The new study space is designed for students to work together on projects in three booth-style sitting areas.

Emma Polen | News Editor

Feb. 2, 2023

In the fall, the university’s Computing and Technology Services launched the first ever collaboration commons in Union 112. This week, they reintroduced the space with an open house featuring snacks, a raffle and a tour of the space.

Freshman Claudia Shrage saw the open house on Bluff Blast this week and decided to check it out.

Her initial impression: “It’s small,” she said.

While the space offers limited seating, its use as a collaborative workspace offers unique features that not every classroom on campus can.

“Collaboration commons provide members of the campus community with access to printing services and popular academic software titles,” said a brochure in the Union commons.

In the collaboration commons, there are “no classes, [it’s] just here for students to use,” said Mark Katsouros, director of IT support.

“One of the pieces of feedback we heard from both students and commuter residents was that there’s not a lot of places to go study and collaborate,” Katsouros said.

Instead of computers, Katsouros and his team decided to get creative with spending on the new lab. Since most students have their own computer anyway, Katsouros wanted the space to offer more “collaborative” features.

The collaboration commons offers computers at desks and televisions at three separate booth-style seating arrangements. The technology and seating is meant to allow for easy collaboration in group work. The televisions allow students to connect their device to the display monitor for “flexible collaboration and content sharing.”

Besides space limitations, a challenge Katsouros and his team had was using windows to open up the lab space. The out-facing wall is actually a “structural wall,” he said, so it would not have been possible to install windows in the collaboration commons.

However, Katsouros again got creative with digital windows that still act to give two-way visibility to passersby and to students working inside the lab. A small camera on each side of the window, hidden in a black window grille, projects the opposite image inside/outside the room onto a television screen that was installed to look like a real window.

Katsouros stressed that the image is not taped or recorded anywhere else in the school. It’s simply a way to “show people what’s inside” the lab and spread awareness for the new facility.

Students must swipe in to use the space, but all enrolled students should have access during the lab’s open hours.

Union 112 was not the last project for the year. Every year, two labs are renovated, Katsouros said. By next fall, Canevin 210 and Mellon 428 will also be renovated.

In the meantime, students from all schools are encouraged to utilize any of the 10 public, on-campus computer labs in both their classrooms and their living learning centers. Union 112 will be open daily for 13 hours Monday through Thursday, and the first-floor Towers lab is open 24 hours to students with swipe access to the building.

“We want to hear students’ feedback,” said Angie Barone, lab manager. She suggests that feedback be sent to labrequest@duq.edu.