Flexibility is Key: The Function of The Lombardi Classroom

Flexibility is Key: The Function of The Lombardi Classroom

The smell of fresh paint still lingers in the air in the newly renovated classroom space on the third floor south building of the University’s main Elkins Park campus. The furniture is in pristine condition and the windows that line an entire side of each room are glistening. What were once two individual, separate classrooms now can also be used as one large space, known as the Lombardi Classroom.

Earlier this year, the University unveiled the campus’ largest classroom in honor of Lorraine Lombardi, PhD for her dedicated service to both the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and Salus.

“The naming of this classroom acknowledges and gives testament to Dr. Lombardi’s lasting legacy at Salus and PCO and dedication to thousands of students and professionals who have been privileged to witness her energy and passion for teaching, and to her colleagues who are most fortunate to call her a friend,” said Michael H. Mittelman, OD’80, MPH, FAAO, Salus University president.

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More than a year in the making, at the start of the academic year, programs and classes had access for its use. Funds for the project were generated donated by members of Dr. Lombardi’s family and through Dr. Lombardi’s “Final Farewell Tour” – a series of final lectures from Dr. Lombardi along with prominent faculty and other members of the optometry world for Continuing Education and Salus alumni audience -  spearheaded by Susan Oleszewski, OD ’76, MA, FAAO, a colleague and close friend of Dr. Lombardi.

Amie Leighton, the University’s in-house project manager for all facilities and physical plant projects, was tasked with the Lombardi Classroom project just weeks after she started working at Salus. The challenge was to make the space useable for a class that includes all programs or up to 300 students, but also flexible enough for smaller classes to utilize the space without feeling engulfed by the expanse of the room.

Leighton and her team settled on a plan that required structural re-arranging of the orientation and amphitheater- style tiering of one side so it could blend well with the other when combined.

In order not to lose valuable classroom space for the entire year of construction, the project was completed in two phases. Phase one began on February 22. During this time, once classroom was under construction while the second continued to house classes. Phase two started when the first classroom or half of the larger space was complete and classes switched to the new side so the second phase could commence.

While the new technology in the classroom is obvious with 14 screens for easy viewing of lectures or presentations, some of the most important aspects of the room may very well be hidden to the untrained eye.

For instance, when the rooms join together, the podiums can move toward the center - all while staying connected with a retractable wire from the floor that can also be clipped into a wire holder along the wall to hide the wires when they are extended. “Those are the kinds of things that add to the complexity of creating a space such as this,” said Leighton.

To ensure the flexibility of the space, sound-resistant removable walls were installed between the classrooms. The walls fold back within 15 minutes, and slide into hidden pockets when they are not expanded.

Even the furniture was selected specifically for the functionality of the room. Separately, one side of the classroom has lecture seating and tables in the front to allow for group work; while the other only has lecture seating.

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A lesser-known part of the project was also updating another classroom next door. While it wasn’t structurally updated, it was redesigned to be a collaborative classroom space. It can hold up to 50 people and has tables that can be reconfigured as needed. It also has five monitors displayed on the walls designed specifically for group work and the monitors can project a presentation in unison or independently of one another. It is a different learning environment that doesn’t exist anywhere else on campus.

“I was a little worried that we were trying to cram too much into the space,” Leighton said. But the Lombardi Classroom had its first test with the dedication ceremony, when only half of the space was completed, and it passed with flying colors. More recently, classes began to be held in the new space with much success. The Lombardi Classroom passed its final and biggest test of hosting orientation, which was previously held in the Hafter Center’s gym, I for the entire incoming class.

At its completion, Leighton was content with the final product. “We have done what we had hoped to do,” she said.