Learning Commons Transforming Life on Campus

Transforming Kettering

The Learning Commons is the first new building on campus in 20 years. It has only taken a few weeks for it to become the new heart of campus.

“It has no doubt transformed life on campus,” said Daniel Oberman (’23, ME). “Between the food and the different spaces for people to hang out, it’s just made a tremendous difference.”

Construction on the 105,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Learning Commons began Feb. 5, 2020. The University had a soft opening in July 2022. Kettering hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $63 million facility Sept. 23. The building includes a dozen d.spaces; a 200-seat auditorium; a 15,000-square-foot Maker’s Space; 1,600 square feet of rooftop space with hammocks and additional seating; an art gallery; and a meditation room.

Learning Commons Ribbon Cutting
Learning Commons Grand Opening
Learning Commons d.space
Meditation Room

“The sheer size of it really impressed me,” Oberman said of his initial reaction to the Learning Commons. “It’s very open, which I like.”

Charlie Sweet (’24, CHME) echoed Oberman’s sentiments.

“It’s really incredible,” he said. “It’s super clean and nice; it’s very open, and it’s very bright, which is refreshing after you walk into some of the other buildings. I really like how open it is as well.” 

Oberman said he sees himself spending a lot of time in the Learning Commons, hanging out with friends, doing homework and grabbing some food.

“The coffee is really good,” he said.

Detroit-based Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company coffee is available at the BorgWarner Bistro on the second floor. 

The rooftop of the bistro, Mutchler Terrace, is one of Sweet’s favorite spots.

“It’s really open and has a lot of great views all the way around,” he said.

Tables and chairs surround the bistro, providing an ideal setting for dining, relaxing or reading a good book, which Ma’at Nadir (’25, CS) enjoys.

“I like being able to see out the window at the buildings and outside,” she said. “I also enjoy the upper floor, which is where a lot of d.spaces and study rooms are and where I had some of my classes.”

Christian Lopez (’25, EE) considers the bistro one of his favorite spots, but he also likes the “zen room,” or the Tomusko Reflection Studio, on the third floor.

“I have taken a nap in there already, and also the hammocks,” Lopez said. “There are lots of great relaxation spots, lots of great spots to unwind, and, of course, the study spaces and d.spaces for working and homework.”

Although the Learning Commons contains no offices or classrooms, faculty are encouraged to use the space for learning and collaboration. 

Nadir attended a math class in a d.space on the third floor.

“We were covering math lessons; we were writing on the windows, and everybody was talking to each other, communicating the answers to go over the problems,” she said.

Nadir said she likes having class in the Learning Commons because she can sit by the window and there are more writable surfaces available.


Students in Learning Commons
Students in Learning Commons
Learning Commons Reiss Auditorium
Learning Commons Owens Conference Room

“In our classroom [in the Academic Building], we don’t have as many whiteboards, or we don’t get up individually to write on the boards or write on the smart boards,” Nadir said. “[In the Learning Commons], we have the chance to write on the boards, on the windows and be in multiple rooms if we need to. While the classroom is just cramped, in this building, we have more room to move around.”

Courtney Cooney, Head of Collections Access in Library and Special Collections, said she’s noticed more students collaborating with one another or with faculty and staff members since the Learning Commons opened.

“There are a lot of new faces,” she said.

Library and Special Collections staff moved their services to the Learning Commons, where virtual and in-person services are available daily at the third- and fourth-floor Knowledge Bars.

“The use of the space has been reconceptualized,” said Marci Euper, Library Access Services Specialist. “The Learning Commons provides more tools and space for helping us to focus on growing and showcasing the digital collection.”

In addition, Cooney said she feels more connected to students and their needs while working in the Learning Commons.Total pledges and gifts

The art gallery has also sparked new interest in art and archives pieces from the KU Collection.

“Professors have proposed to use the archives and art in their curriculum, and we are working with them,” said Melanie Bazil, Curator of Special Collections.

For Lopez, seeing how great the completed building looks made those early-morning construction noises—when he lived in Thompson Hall—worth it, he said. 

“It’s just a big spot to just socialize, especially during orientation. Everybody was hanging out, wandering around, meeting new people. It really just brought the whole entire campus under one roof,” Lopez said. “Everyone’s here; everyone is enjoying it, and that’s why it’s so awesome.”

The positive energy the building has brought to campus is contagious.

“I love this building,” Sweet said. “I’m so happy this is on our campus now. It makes everything feel much more modern and fresh.”

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President McMahan thanks our alumni and donors for helping us close the largest capital campaign and begin a new era. 

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