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University announces plans to construct a Contemplative Commons building

The building is designed to foster collaboration between students and faculties from various disciplines

The Contemplative Commons building will be located on Emmet Street, near the Dell and McCormick Road residence halls.
The Contemplative Commons building will be located on Emmet Street, near the Dell and McCormick Road residence halls.

The University has announced its intention to construct the Contemplative Commons building adjacent to Dell Pond. The Commons will work to further the efforts of the University’s Contemplative Sciences Center by being a building that encourages collaboration between students and faculty from different schools.

The building will not be owned by any particular academic school, providing opportunities for inter-school collaboration. The Commons will feature open spaces that can be used for artistic performances, lectures, research and other activities. 

The Commons will expand on the work currently being done by the Contemplative Sciences Center, which was founded in 2012 and is led by David Germano, a professor of religious studies.

Germano described the Center’s purpose as “thinking about how flourishing and education intersect with each other.” 

When the opportunity was presented to construct the building, Germano worked to address the challenge of the disjunction between the academic experience and the residential experience for students.

“What we wanted to do was have a building that supported the integration of those two sides of the student experience,” Germano said.

Germano explained that the building will be open nearly 24/7 with the goal of helping to promote student well-being. The building will have spaces for classrooms as well as extracurricular and student-run programming.

The building’s construction is being funded partially by a $40 million dollar donation from Paul Tudor Jones II and Sonia M. Jones, who had previously donated $12 million to establish the Contemplative Sciences Center.

Germano believes that the Contemplative Commons aligns with the original Jeffersonian values of the University.

“This is a building that tries to harken back to that Jeffersonian world where the intellectual and the personal, the residential experience of the student and intellectual academic experience of the student, are mingled together” Germano said.

Germano also stated that the biophilic elements of the building are Jeffersonian, pointing to the Gardens behind every Pavillion alongside the Lawn.

“We really emulated that by building this and in of the loveliest parts of the University with the Dell Pond right next to it and the Dell ecology extending back,” Germano said.

University President Jim Ryan stated that the Commons will help students improve by providing space for collaboration.

“Our goal is to prepare our students both to be successful in their careers and to lead meaningful, satisfying lives once they leave here,” Ryan said. “That’s what the new Contemplative Commons is designed to do — providing space for students and faculty from different schools and disciplines to work together, and helping them thrive outside the classroom as well.”

Construction of the Contemplative Commons is planned to be completed by summer 2023.