Collegiate faculty moves to Summer Street, will help achieve president's plan

by Laura Gomez / Beacon Staff • September 12, 2013

The faculty members formerly located in Walker, now work from the 9th floor of a 99 Summer Street building.
The faculty members formerly located in Walker, now work from the 9th floor of a 99 Summer Street building.

The college will look to hire 40 additional full-time teaching staff members over the next five years as part of a plan devised by President M. Lee Pelton, according to Michaele Whelan, chief academic officer.

To prepare for this, 60 administrative staff members were relocated last April from the main campus to 99 Summer St., said Jay Phillips, associate vice president for facilities and campus services. This location, located two blocks from South Station, now accommodates the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, the Finance Office, and the Office of Communications and Marketing. 

The push to host more faculty on the main campus is part of the college-wide strategic plan approved by the Board of Trustees in 2011 that outlines eight initiatives to “build a college of distinction.” 

Among goals like strengthening the School of Communication and providing dining space for faculty and staff, the strategic plan seeks to renovate and create additional classrooms, offices and other facilities to foster professional and academic engagement.

From this strategic plan, Pelton developed his vision “to establish Emerson as the world’s leading institution of higher education in the arts and communication,” as announced at his inaugural address last September.

During that address, Pelton said he hopes to add the 40 new full-time teachers. Currently, the college has 193 full-time faculty, according to Whelan, so the addition of new faculty as proposed by Pelton would mean a 21 percent increase in full-time teaching staff.

“Currently we are holding a very small percentage of the faculty,” said Phillips, declining to specify what percentage of faculty the college is able to accommodate on campus. 

Whelan said in an email to the Beacon that most of the full-time faculty is assigned to an office, while part-time faculty—about 240 instructors— usually share workspaces. 

“The only way to bring faculty in and create more social space for students is to move administrators out of the [core campus],” said Phillips. 

Joseph Arbeely, senior administrative associate of development and alumni relations, said he and his colleagues always understood why the move to 99 Summer St. was happening.

“Our work comes secondary to what the school is about, which is the students,” he said. “The move made me feel like one component of the same family.”

The building is a 20-story office tower in the Financial District. The college leases the 9th floor. 

“Coming into the lobby it feels very corporate,” said Arbeely about the distinctive five-story atrium entrance with marble finishes at 99 Summer St. 

But when the elevator doors open at the 9th floor, a familiar gold and lavender paint decorates the walls, and the Emerson Lion logo is displayed beside the reception desk. 

“IT and Facilities have helped us feel situated,” said Arbeely, who said he was grateful for the work done to give this location an “Emerson feel.” This floor has shared common areas with a full kitchen and seating space and a conference room.

Rhea Becker, assistant director of communications and marketing, said initially she didn’t want to leave campus, but now she likes the new location. 

“I think the spaces are beautiful and comfortable,” she said about the new offices. “[The move] has given us a chance to have a conference room to meet with visitors and a whole new neighborhood to explore.” 

Besides being able to stroll along the Boston Harborwalka public walkway that edges the Boston Harborat lunchtime, Becker said she benefits from working in the same physical location as the Development and Alumni Relations staff.

Arbeely said the floor plan allows for more personal interaction within all departments.

“These three groups usually don’t work together, but being here is helping us build relationships,” he said.

By intentionally arranging adjacencies of administrative departments, the college is hoping to create physical environments that are in tune with its vision for excellence and innovation, according to Phillips.

After the administrative offices of the marketing communication department moved from the Walker Building’s 10th floor to 99 Summer St., the college has been able to concentrate groups that focus on diversity, community action, and global engagement in the old space.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research; the Office of Service Learning and Community Action; the Office of International Student Affairs; and the Office of International Study and External Programs are now located in the 10th floor of Walker along with the Office of Government and Community Relations, which was already situated in that floor.

“People don’t naturally collaborate because buildings and structures don’t allow,” said Sylvia Spears, vice president for diversity and inclusion. “But if you can create intentional opportunities for people to meet, the likelihood for innovation is greater.”

Spears said she is excited about the space because the setup of the floor allows for spontaneous engagement between students, faculty and staff.  

Similar efforts to strategically group departments in one location to create communities are also happening in the Ansin building. 

Senior administrators are now located in the 14th floor of Ansin to enhance collaboration between them, according to Phillips. Christine Hughes, vice president and general counsel, has joined President M. Lee Pelton and Maureen Murphy, vice president for administration and finance, on the 14th floor. Whelan and Richard Zauft, dean of graduate students and associate vice president for academic affairs, will also move to that floor.

 “All these things are calling for thoughtful, strategic adjacencies to increase collaboration and free up space in some ways for additional faculty offices,” said Phillips.