The new Institute for Collaboration brings the College of Education to the forefront of the University of Aurora’s curriculum and combines it, under one roof, with the University’s Partnership School. The Partnership School is a popular and successful lab-style elementary school, embedded in the University campus. Since 1997 it has hosted 4th grade students from Freeman Elementary, a neighborhood school located a few blocks away from campus.
With the help of a $10 million Federal Grant to expand its partnership with the local School District, University officials and the Architect developed a building program and design that achieves the Institute’s ultimate goal: To serve as a replicable national model that demonstrates how a community can find collaborative solutions to complex educational and social problems facing children in the 21st century. “We’re trying to make education better,” said U.S. House Speaker, Dennis Hastert. “And the key to education is good teachers who inspire kids to do a little bit better than they might normally do.”
The Institute for Collaboration reflects the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act. It focuses on the achievements of all students. This new 68,000 square foot academic building serves as a unique teaching / learning laboratory where student teachers and faculty can work directly with elementary school children on campus. “It’s an opportunity for us to take the theoretical work of teaching and apply it with real life kids out of Aurora’s neighborhoods,” said Gary Jewel, College of Education Dean.
Partnership School – College of Education – Aurora Partnership for Teaching
The Institute’s unique “school within a university” educational model integrates 200 fourth and fifth graders (8 classroom sections) from local School District 129 in a total immersion with AU students; practicing K-12 teachers (graduate and doctoral students); human service professionals; community youth; wellness and educational agencies; and the general resources of Aurora University in a collaborative “real world” learning laboratory that incorporates tutoring, community service and professional certification.
The Institute serves as the focal point for the University’s programs that are designed to address the educational challenges facing the Fox Valley region related to teacher recruitment; preparation; development; retention and development of collaborative leaders in education; and human service for future generations.
Community Resource for Problem Solving
The Institute for Collaboration serves as a conduit where area community leaders (business, government, education, non-profit and K-20 students) work together to address key community issues. It also houses Communities In School (CIS) of Aurora, a not-for-profit link between educators and the community. It is CIS’s mission to help fund support programs and bring community resources into the school setting to help young people successfully learn, stay in school, and prepare for life. Under the direction of CIS, Aurora University students are formally engaged in the program’s citywide after-school program as teachers and mentors.
Community Resource for Collaborative Learning
The Institute for Collaboration allows area community leaders (business, government, education, non-profit and K-20 students) to work together to address key issues for the community. It is also provides continuing education programs for local residents. The Institute creates opportunities to engage experts in community-based lectures, symposia, and workshops.
Design imbues the campus with an architectural authenticity and integrity
The state-of-the-art Institute for Collaboration is a three-story academic facility built on the south edge of campus in the spirit of the original campus design vocabulary. It brings the campus’s traditional Richardsonian Romanesque aesthetic and Prairie vocabulary into the 21st century. Its dramatic steel arches are at once reminiscent of 19th century prototypes, yet also fit comfortably with contemporary building technologies. The Institute for Collaboration uses true load-bearing masonry construction, steel arches, cast limestone detailing, extensive copper cladding, and true terra cotta tile-clad pitched roof construction. It complements and reinforces a campus aesthetic that was begun over a hundred years ago, strengthening the campus’s uniqueness and “sense of place.”
The Institute accommodates the heavy traffic of students, faculty, 4th grade elementary children, and citizens attending public meetings and events, without disrupting the quiet pedestrian activity on the campus. The Institute and parking are integrated into the campus through a new campus pedestrian way that connects to the quad. This connects academic buildings and student life areas onto one pathway.
The facility itself includes 29 dedicated classrooms and more than 60 office spaces and resource rooms. The Institute accommodates 320 class meetings per week generating 6,000 student credit hours per semester at the baccalaureate, masters and doctoral levels. At the heart of the Institute is a 500-seat Auditorium with a glass end wall that affords a panoramic view of a landscaped garden and surrounding campus.
The innovative virtual ‘Cyber-Lab’ donated by The Caterpillar Corporation is a virtual laboratory, free of computers. It promotes scientific and technological understanding in a completely mobile setting, allowing students to engage in virtual experiments.
Its central location and accommodating design makes University classes easily accessible to the Institute. And the Institute is readily accessible to the entire campus for lectures, assemblies, small productions, community forums and special events including musicals and weddings. It even has sufficient space for a full orchestra. And its spacious lobby allows for large public gatherings, exhibitions and flexible arrangements for programmed functions.Signaling the southern entrance to the campus, the Institute for Collaboration has become a welcoming signature building for Aurora University.