University Briefs New Employees​ on Capital Construction

New faculty and administrators received a briefing on the status of several of Boston College’s ongoing construction projects and academic initiatives from Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, BC ’93, on Thursday. Lochhead explained the goals put forth in BC’s strategic plan, Ever to Excel, to the new employees.

The information session, which was centered around BC’s Master Plan, was the second of this year’s “BC 101” meetings, which are designed to get new employees up to speed on campus developments and culture.

The University has put about $5 million in capital spending toward developing and revamping informal student spaces, Lochhead said, which has primarily gone to 300 Hammond Pond Parkway and O’Neill Library. He also said that the next round of investment, which will focus on O’Neill Library and Newton Campus, would constitute another $5 million or $6 million.

One of those future projects will involve renovating the fifth floor of O’Neill Library, Lochhead said. The old computer data center is currently being removed and being replaced with group study spaces for students.

The Newton Campus projects will likely involve looking for opportunities to use Barat House and Alumni House as a space for faculty-student dinners.

Lochhead mentioned that plans for a “University Center” will begin to come together much further down the line, although, at the moment, the University’s focus remains on the Schiller Institute, which is under construction right now. He did not suggest that any plan for a “University Center” is currently under major consideration.

The Schiller Institute will include research space, 11 classrooms, collaborative study spaces, and several “makerspaces” for hands-on learning.

“We’re looking at an integrated way of looking at research and bringing in faculty from all disciplines to contribute to research toward complex societal problems and to bring students into that conversation,” Lochhead said.

Lochhead also said that the Shea Center will be a “focal point” of the Schiller Institute. This will add an entrepreneurial component to the research and outreach that will be conducted in the Schiller.

Turning to athletics, Lochhead mentioned the Fish Field House, Harrington Athletics Village, and Pete Frates Center as signs that BC is continuing to keep up with competitive pressure from other universities. For instance, before BC built the Fish Field House, it was the only ACC school without an indoor field house, setting the athletic department at a distinct disadvantage, in terms of recruiting, he said.

Lochhead also told the assembled administrators and faculty about Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s plan to take 17 acres of BC-owned property in Webster Woods through eminent domain.

BC bought the land, located near 300 Hammond Pond Parkway, from Congregation Mishkan Tefila for $20 million in 2016. The purchase also included a former synagogue and parking lot, which the University has since turned into student space.

Lochhead said the University had purchased the land as part of its long-term vision, but had not made any plans for development.

BC has said it will pursue all legal options to keep the woods.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know if we can stop the taking,” Lochhead said. “So it’s important for us to continue to try to do what we can to help the city see their errors in ways.”

Lochhead also reviewed recent successful construction projects such as the Margot Connell Recreation Complex, which opened over the summer, and the Pine Tree Preserve, which officially opened last month.

The Lower Campus lot formerly occupied by the Flynn Recreation Complex, which was torn down over the summer, will eventually feature a parking lot and outdoor recreation spaces such as basketball courts.

At the beginning of his speech, Lochhead provided an overview of recent academic initiatives and changes at BC. He contrasted the University’s investment in the core curriculum to trends at other schools that have moved in the other direction. He specifically pointed to the interdisciplinary core renewal courses offered to freshmen, which he said the University would “double down” on in coming years.

He also said that opening up minors in the Carroll School of Management to all students who are interested has proven to be a success in the eyes of the University.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

Correction (10/15/19, 12:12 p.m.): The Schiller Institute was incorrectly said to have space for student organizations’ offices.