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VOL. 131 | NO. 228 | Tuesday, November 15, 2016

CBU Campus Expanding in Several Ways

By Bill Dries

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Christian Brothers University’s campus overhaul includes a new college of education that aims to make the university a major player in the training and development of teachers.

Christian Brothers University unveiled a second phase of its $70 million capital campaign Saturday, Nov. 12, that will change the look of the campus and how students interact there, as well as expand the reach of its college of education. 

(Submitted by CBU)

The impact goes beyond the bricks-and-mortar changes coming to the campus starting in 2020 in the second phase of a $70 million capital campaign.

CBU leaders unveiled the second phase of the capital campaign Saturday, Nov. 12, at its Bell Tower Gala.

In advance of the announcement, CBU president John Smarrelli told The Daily News Editorial Board of the plans and talked specifically of the reconstruction of the university’s education school.

“At the end of the day, what we are going to do to our education program is we are going to blow it up,” Smarrelli said. “We will create a project-based learning teacher-training program here on the CBU campus with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”

Look for a transcript of the wide-ranging conversation with Smarrelli and other CBU leaders Friday in the new edition of The Memphis News and in the online Saturday edition of The Daily News, www.memphisdailynews.com.

Smarrelli has been leader of the Catholic LaSallian private university for eight years and has also been involved in the historic changes in local public education, starting with his service on the Transition Planning Commission that guided the merger of Shelby County’s two public school systems.

Recently, CBU has been part of the group seeking to create a high school of 500 students as part of the Crosstown Concourse development. Smarrelli is chairman of that group’s board. CBU is also allied with the Middle College High School directly across Central Avenue from its campus at Central and East Parkway. Middle College High School students taking advance placement courses for college credit attend classes on the CBU campus with teachers who are on the CBU faculty.

Smarrelli said Crosstown High, which its organizers plan to open in August 2018, is “crucial” to the new teacher training and education program at CBU.

“It gives us a laboratory whereby we can totally blow up our current teaching program and create a new one,” he said. “Project-based learning is sort of the modern way of teaching these days – teaching to a student’s strength.”

The Crosstown High group has approval from the Shelby County Schools board for a charter school. Smarrelli said talks are still continuing with the school system about some kind of “contract school” with closer ties between the Crosstown group and the school system than the charter arrangement.

SCS leaders expressed some concern about how a non-charter school at Crosstown that is part of SCS would have on Central High School in particular.

“We know the concerns of Central High parents relative to what Crosstown will do to them,” Smarrelli said. “But we’re optimistic that if we create enough outstanding opportunities for public education for our students – we can enhance it in ways that have never been done before. We’ve got an anonymous donor willing to support us on the teacher training center. We want to use Crosstown in that opportunity. This (capital) campaign will allow us to do that.”

The second phase of CBU’s master plan also includes an expanded, state-of-the-art library and Thomas Student Center. The plan also makes the school’s quad more of a student gathering spot.

The new $14 million student center would replace the existing 1970s-era Thomas Center, and the renovation of Plough Library is put at $5 million, with another $4 million upgrade of athletic facilities.

The new buildings include a career center focused on offering all students internships as part of their college experience.

The parts – brick-and-mortar construction and programming – have been coordinated into a master plan Smarrelli said dictates that somewhere on campus “on a very regular basis – a spirit that says we should be building as we are reaching out to the community.”

“We needed a master plan with some pop to it,” he added. “Basically we were putting buildings in this spot and put a building here. What we’ve done is created a dynamic canvas.”

Last year, CBU completed the $8 million Rosa G.Deal School of the Arts, the most visible structure associated with the first phase of the capital campaign, which opens for classes in 2017.

The school, named for the university’s first woman teacher, was built on the site of Kenrick Hall, a circa-1939 building that was demolished.

At Saturday’s Bell Tower Gala, the school also announced its engineering school is being named in honor of Richard Gadomski, the co-chairman of the capital campaign and a former head of the CBU board of trustees.

A CBU alumni who came to the school from Chicago in 1958, Gadomski earned a degree in engineering that he credits with his success in business. The engineering program was four years old when Gadomski started.

“I was a blue collar kid with no educational background … when I came down here,” he said. “I found out that I could compete with anybody in the world with the education I had here.”

Gadomski has also been a major force in the capital campaign and the plans the campaign is funding. Smarrelli describes him as “our most amazing benefactor.”

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