The opening of Lafayette’s newest academic building brings the College closer to its goal of incorporating a global perspective into every student’s educational experience.
Made possible by the support of Trustee Emeritus Walter Oechsle ’57 and the late Christa Huber Oechsle, the Oechsle Center for Global Education underscores Lafayette’s multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to global issues.
The three-story center on South College Drive, overlooking Easton, is home to the International Affairs and Africana Studies programs and the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. It’s a dynamic, collaborative learning environment. Innovative signature spaces like the Global Studio and the Global Salon can be configured in many ways for teaching, learning, and special events. A lecture hall seating 60 people, two classrooms with 40 seats each, and a conference room also add to the College’s inventory of comfortable, well-equipped teaching spaces.
The center’s common areas — incubators for connections and collaborations — became popular gathering places the day the doors opened. These spaces already have helped build a greater sense of community and identity among students in International Affairs, says David Stifel, the program’s chair. The 40-plus IA majors in the Class of 2015 are taking their senior capstone course there this spring, and younger students who are just entering the major are coming to the building for their required course on research methods. Stifel calls the common spaces the building’s most important feature, because that’s where students gather with each other and with faculty “to have conversations that can lead to opportunities.”
The $10.6-million center opened for classes in January. While there already is robust support at the College for interdepartmental collaboration, the new hub for interdisciplinary programs will facilitate further collaboration, Stifel says. Other area studies programs on campus include American Studies, Asian Studies, Italian Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Russian and East European Studies.
The Oechsles were inducted into the Société d’Honneur, established by the Board of Trustees to recognize exceptional lifetime generosity, in 1997. Their major contribution during the Lafayette Leadership Campaign (1995-2001) enabled the College to transform the former Alumni Memorial Gymnasium into Oechsle Hall for psychology and neuroscience. The Oechsles also endowed a scholarship fund that benefits international students at Lafayette. The William C. Rappolt ’67 and Walter Oechsle ’57 Neuroscience Prize, given annually to an outstanding senior, also bears his name.
The Oechsle Center complements other innovative facilities and programs that are broadening the global dimension of Lafayette’s educational offerings. These include Grossman House, a residence hall for students interested in topics related to globalization. It opened in fall 2012, named in appreciation for the support of Trustee Emeritus Richard Grossman ’64 and his wife, Rissa Welt Grossman. Members of the Société d’Honneur, the Grossmans previously funded the Grossman Gallery in the Williams Visual Arts Building and the Grossman Visiting Artist and Exhibition program.