A gift from University of Montana alum Dennis Eck and his wife Gretchen will allow the College of Humanities and Sciences to upgrade a dozen rooms on campus into “smart classrooms” with advanced technological capabilities.
The Ecks’ contribution will help create a "vertical technology corridor" in the Liberal Arts Building and will enable professors to acquire advanced audio/visual resources for teaching and research.
The college also will be able to develop a comprehensive master plan for upgrades and renovations to the building, which many former and current students would agree is long overdue.
“This new technology will enhance the kind of teaching, learning and research opportunities we can offer our students and faculty,” said UM College of Humanities and Sciences Dean Christopher Comer. “It is an immensely important step toward our goal to renovate the Liberal Arts Building and move the College of Humanities and Sciences forward.”
Some of the planned technology enhancements include interactive smart boards and video walls, multiple LCD screens, video conferencing capabilities and the capacity for faculty and students to interact through tablets and computing devices.
The “smart classrooms” will be easy-to-use, technology-rich, flexible environments that support and facilitate many learning methods and styles, including distance education.
Comers said faculty will be able to explore new and engaging methods of interacting with students. Rooms will have improved temperature controls, movable furnishings and other aesthetic refurbishments.
The first phase of the renovations is scheduled to begin Monday, with the removal of window coverings on the building’s façade.
Dennis Eck, a Wolf Point native, graduated from UM in 1968 with a degree in political history. He is on the board of directors at Ulta Salon, Cosmetics and Fragrance, a publicly traded chain of beauty superstores.
During his business career in the U.S. and Australia, he said he discovered that technology benefited his customers, shareholders and employees.
“I am a fan of technology being used to help people,” he said. “When I came for a visit to campus last year, I looked in the Liberal Arts Building and not much had changed since the 1960s. I thought, there is no reason you couldn’t take this building and bring it into a technologically modern era, to keep pace with the great professors. I’ve been lucky. Now it’s time to make a difference.”
Jameel Chaudhry has been selected as the architect on the project.