For thousands of Northern Illinois University students who began the new semester Tuesday in a technology-rich classroom at Cole Hall, the occasion must represent something special. But it may be even more important to realize what the renovated building will mean to future NIU students.
Perhaps, in the words of university President John Peters, the reopening of Cole Hall Tuesday is the "inspirational" embodiment of the "Forward. Together Forward" spirit that serves as the school's motto. It is at least symbolic of any new beginning, the excitement of promising horizons.
But, of course, this is not just any new building. Nor, technically, is it a new building at all. It's a $6 million renovation of the aging 1960s-era structure where a gunman strode into a geology classroom four years ago, killed five students and wounded at least 19 others before taking his own life. The architects note that some new spaces have been added to Cole Hall, but most of the learning spaces in the building have been preserved -- just transformed.
From the beginning, NIU officials and students alike have emphasized that this is not a place to focus on tragedy; this is a place to focus on learning. And the new Cole Hall emphasizes that distinction.
The Collaboratory Classroom area of the building features six learning pods where students can engage with educational material on a 65-inch digital touch screen. NIU …