Nothing ‘Normal’ about this renovation

When renovations are complete in fall 2015, Normal Hall will be the home of two core units that are integral to the student success mission — University College and the Center for Student Success.

Normal Hall is the latest in a series of iconic Terre Haute and Indiana State University buildings to be renovated and repurposed, but when educators talk about the restoration, they convey a sense that there is something that sets it apart from all the others.

Perhaps it’s because it is the sole remaining building on campus that was constructed during the Indiana State Normal School era. Maybe it’s that it once played an important role in student success as the Normal School’s library and will house a variety of student success initiatives. Or is it that the General Assembly took the rare step of “cash funding” the $16 million renovation?

It may be all of those things and more that creates such a buzz around the project, scheduled for completion in fall 2015, in time to help kick off Indiana State’s five-year-long sesquicentennial observance.

Normal Hall is seen in the summer of 2013, before renovation work started.

Normal Hall is seen in the summer of 2013, before renovation work started.

“This renovation will return Normal Hall to its rightful place in the center of campus life,” said university President Dan Bradley. “When completed, the project will provide a valuable new resource to students while preserving and re-energizing a significant historic structure in the heart of campus.”

Normal Hall will be the home of two core units that are integral to the student success mission — University College and the Center for Student Success, which houses tutoring and other student academic support services, said Josh Powers, associate vice president for student success.

“The fact that we are moving into a new facility that is very identifiable on the campus will result in significant attention for its historic significance and will present a real opportunity for bringing people together around the important issue of student success,” Powers said.

Powers and Linda Maule, dean of University College, which provides advising to first-year students, said the renovation of the neo-classical building, constructed of Indiana limestone, will allow Normal Hall to serve as one of three anchors of a student success corridor. The other anchors are Cunningham Memorial Library and the university’s Career Center.

The inside of Normal Hall is seen in April 2014, before renovation work started.

The inside of Normal Hall is seen in April 2014, before renovation work started.

While Indiana State has always put student success first, the renovation “sends a strong message to our students, their parents and family members and other constituencies that we are putting student success at the very center of our endeavors,” said Maule.

“This is going to be a symbol that is hard to ignore. In some ways it is in the center of campus and it is an extraordinary building,” Maule said of Normal Hall. “Because of the way it is being renovated, it is going to tie to the university’s past and connect to its future. When students walk in there, whether coming from a rural community, a cosmopolitan area or an urban center, they’re going to be in awe. It’s going to say something to them about what it means to be a student at Indiana State.”

The building will feature the latest technology in tutoring facilities, both for small group and individual work and for students with disabilities, Powers noted.


Josh Powers

“We’re going to have some nice technology to take testing services to a new level and provide flexibility in some of the spaces to be utilized by students with a range of physical or learning disabilities,” he said. “The commons area, where University College will be, is going to be absolutely gorgeous. The rooms are going to have nice wooden tables amid historic columns in the rotunda. It’s going to be a real gathering place for students, faculty, staff and university functions.”

Each floor of the building will get a new look that maintains a connection to the past. The first floor will feature high tables, 20th century chairs and preserved books. The lower, or garden level, will house the Center for Student Success and the second floor is where University College and its 16 advisors will serve students.

The building will regain some of its past glories, such as a grand staircase and a stained-glass dome featuring images of at least 24 educators and philosophers. The original dome was dismantled decades ago for safety reasons.

Bradley noted preservationist Gayle Cook’s assistance in planning for the reservation.

Renovation work is seen in September 2014.

Renovation work is seen in September 2014.

“Gayle has a tremendous amount of expertise and experience in historic preservation, and has helped connect us with the best craftsman available to restore the magnificent Normal Hall dome,” he said.

As impressive as it promises to be, the building will only create an atmosphere that is more conducive to student success, said Maule, but it will be up to those who use the grand structure to fulfill the dream.

“I don’t think buildings alone ever make a difference; the human beings, both in terms of the faculty and staff who work in those buildings and the students who learn and grow in those buildings, make a difference,” she said. “I would never say that having these beautifully renovated buildings is singularly important, but they are important to your connection to the university. Our students deserve these kinds of spaces where when they walk in they feel proud of themselves; they feel like they’re on an important journey. Places and spaces do that for you.”

Bradley said it is impossible to listen to Maule “and not be excited about the impact these programs and this newly renovated facility will have on our students.”

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