GW Law School Fall 2003
A Magazine for Alumni and Friends

Turning the Corner: Both physically and figuratively, the Law School has “turned the corner” by completing substantial interior upgrades and occupying more space on the south side of the University Yard.

When classes began at GW Law School this fall, students returned to find a campus transformed. In a summer’s time, there were suddenly comfortable lounge areas in which to study and technologically advanced classrooms in which to learn. New faculty and staff offices made communication easier and more efficient. Enjoying more natural sunlight, new furniture, and upscale details, students found themselves spending more time on campus and with each other.

“In the past, students came in the door, went to class, and left. Now it seems we congregate before and after class in the new spaces,” says fourth-year evening student Michael Gabriel.

Building a stronger academic community was the primary goal of the renovations, which benefited the Law School community by connecting its facilities more seamlessly than had ever been possible.

This third phase of an ambitious four-phase renovation plan that began in 2000 was completed in August. During the summer, the Law School moved into Stuart Hall—which was vacated by the Elliott School of International Affairs—and major portions of Lisner Hall. With its move, the Law School now forms an adjoining “L” along two sides of the University Yard.

In the 350,000 square feet of the Law School’s new building portfolio, student lounge space and computing spaces were doubled. Students now have wireless access to the Internet in lounges and designated classrooms via an access card they use with their laptop computers. Ten new classrooms allow for smaller class sizes and more personal attention. New offices create a more professional and accessible atmosphere.


Ten new classrooms were created in this construction phase, allowing for smaller class sizes and more personal attention. The extra spaces have made it easier to match the needs of each class with a space that fits its size and logistical requirements. >>

<< Using access cards and their laptop computers, students have wireless access to the Internet in lounges and some classrooms, allowing for greater flexibility in their communications and work schedules.


“We’ve ‘turned the corner,’ so to speak, and added one-third the size of total physical space. In doing so, we’ve created a unity, a flow throughout the complex that didn’t exist before,” says Associate Dean for Administrative Affairs Tom Morrison. “You wouldn’t recognize this place, regardless of when you graduated.”

Morrison, who oversaw the renovation project, faced the challenge of completing the third phase of renovations after commencement in May and before the start of the fall semester. Working around final exams, graduation, and orientation events, the majority of the renovations were completed between June 1 and Aug. 17.

“We have one of the largest law schools in the country,” Morrison says. “To move our students and faculty around without hindering the learning process was a trick and a treat.”

Student reaction to the renovations made meeting the logistical challenges highly rewarding, he says. “This has been a result of five years of planning, and we’re still making improvements. But the first time I saw the new furniture arrive in the lounges, and the way the students gravitated toward it and used it on the first morning of orientation, I knew that we had met our goal of creating a welcoming environment for our students.”

Corrie Westbrook, president of GW’s Student Bar Association, says the improvements have satisfied the needs of the student body.

Staff members say the new office spaces, such as the Records Office, create a more professional atmosphere. >>



<< Set across from the new Records Office, this room is ideal for distributing paperwork to students without crowding the main room, a welcome change for students and staff.

“The new lounges and classrooms were absolutely beautiful. We really needed more study space, and the lounges are so much brighter and roomier,” she says. “And the ‘extras’ most of us did not know were in the plans were nice, such as the information touch-screen computers in the entrances, full-length lockers, and technology in each new classroom.”

The renovation also has helped faculty and staff members. With 40 new offices, the Law School was able to welcome back faculty members who had been housed one block away in Old Main for the past two years. It’s a move that has improved communication and morale, says Professor Peter Raven-Hansen, a member of the Law School’s building committee.

“It was a tough division for the faculty community,” Raven-Hansen says. “Now we are all back and accessible to one another. It changes the ambiance and makes a difference—attendance is up at our meetings and lunches.”

The changes are felt by everyone, including alumni who visit, Raven-Hansen says. “We have the sense that we have a completely new building in all but the name,” he says. “It looks elegant. Our meeting spaces are being used and appreciated, and the student and faculty communities are happy to spend time together. It truly looks and feels like a law school.”

The updates also bring the physical and technological aspects of the school up to par with its academic standards, he says. This year’s incoming class is the first required to bring laptop computers to class. The new mandate will change the way the students learn, study, and take tests. During some exams, their laptops will be equipped with software that blocks out all applications that are not a part of the tests, in order to maintain academic integrity while making the testing process easier to take and to grade.


Associate Dean for Administrative Affairs Tom Morrison says when he saw students “gravitate” toward the new furniture in the lounges, he “knew we had met our goal of creating a welcoming environment for our students.” >>

<< Outside the Burns Law Library, students can access the Law School’s Web portal on four computers built into the wall. The large plasma screen to the left provides streaming news and information.


“Our wireless infrastructure allows us to use class time not only to teach traditional print research, but also to explore a multitude of Web-based legal resources,” says Professor Lorri Shealy Unumb, director of GW’s Legal Research and Writing Program. “In short, we prepare students to practice law in the legal world forever changed by technology.”

On the administrative side, assigning classrooms and meeting spaces is now a manageable task, says Roseanne O’Hara, director of Student Administrative Services, who is responsible for such work. “Every semester it was a struggle to get the right amount of students in the limited spaces we had. It was especially hard to give courses enough room to allow the students to break out into groups when needed,” she says. “This is the first time I’ve been able to fully accommodate the different needs of the different courses.”

This also is the first time the Law School has been able to accommodate adjunct faculty with permanent work space. New workrooms allow them to prepare for class, eat and congregate, and meet with students.

O’Hara says the renovations make the Records Office more accessible to students. There is now a separate room devoted to handouts and materials that students are free to pick up without interrupting the traffic flow of the rest of the office. The change has allowed the staff to serve the students more effectively—a noticeable change, O’Hara says.

“I’ve become a ‘ma’am’ now, the students are so impressed with how professional our offices are,” O’Hara says. “I overheard one new student say, ‘This is not the law school I applied to.’”

Phase three of the renovations will be completed by the end of the year, when the streetscape is updated to give the Law School a more unified look that is in keeping with its historic Foggy Bottom surroundings. Brick retaining walls, raised landscape beds, and metal railing and fencing are some of the details that will give the complex its new look.

Morrison says that in addition to the renovations, the Law School itself is changing, a change in the atmosphere that goes beyond physical plant.

“It’s more than bricks and mortar,” Morrison says. “The community is truly coming together. It’s a feeling—a vibrant, great feeling.”

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