The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (SHA) announces that The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has committed a $3 million gift to name the Marriott Student Learning Center. The new center will reconfigure the school's current Nestlé Library and George B. Mallory '54 Student Lounge into a facility designed to enhance student learning in the digital age.

"The Marriott family has had an active relationship with the school since the 1950s, and we are grateful to have their incredible gift as we create a student center for the twenty-first century," says Michael D. Johnson, dean and E. M. Statler Professor at SHA. "We are honored that this new space will be the Marriott Student Learning Center."

The Marriott Foundation—which focuses its giving in the areas of education, youth, and human services —is one of the largest donors in the school's history. Both the Foundation and Marriott International made contributions in 1989 to name the J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center, which is adjacent to the Statler Hotel at Cornell.

"Through our foundation, the Marriott family has tried to make a difference in the world by supporting causes and organizations that share our ideals,” says J. W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr. “Cornell University, and its School of Hotel Administration, certainly fit that standard. The School's mission of 'Hospitality Leadership through Learning' reflects a commitment to improving the hospitality industry through continuous professional growth. The Marriott Company and Foundation share that same commitment."

As SHA integrates its traditional library services with those of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) and the Johnson Graduate School of Management, the space currently occupied by book stacks and periodicals will be transformed into the interactive Marriott Center. Reference librarians will still be available to assist student's onsite. The student center will feature flexible work areas for collaborative learning and independent study; small group meeting spaces, with smart board technology for group presentations; and fixed and mobile computing resources for accessing information digitally. It will also have space for relaxing and socializing and will include limited food and beverage options. "Our move to electronic information has been accelerated by our current students," explained librarian Don Schnedeker. "Students in the millennial generation are heavy users of communications, media, and digital technologies. They are fiercely independent researchers, and they use their vibrant student network as their first resource. For these students, case studies, group projects, and presentations are opportunities to build leadership skills and professionalism."

Woods Bagot, one of the world's leading architectural firms, has been selected to design the new facility. Having built nearly 8 million square feet of learning and research space in the past decade, the firm has deep experience in helping educational institutions keep pace with the rapid changes in digital technology and the implications for student learning. Construction will begin in the spring of 2012, and the center will be open for the 2012 fall semester.

"The vision for the new Student Learning Center is to capture and define the students' on-campus experience—the collaboration, social interaction, digital engagement, learning, and life of the school,” says Jeffrey Holmes, senior principal of Woods Bagot New York and a 1989 graduate of Cornell's architecture program. “The space will act as the foundation for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, foster a community of learners, and celebrate the tradition and excellence at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.”

Industry News, Philanthropy