New STEM commons to open in Perry-Castañeda Library

Rachel Lew

A new STEM learning commons will open officially today in the Perry-Castañeda Library to provide a space for students to learn about and collaborate in science, technology, engineering and math studies.

The STEM commons will be open to students of any major and will feature new mobile furniture and an increased number of whiteboards and power outlets, according to Travis Willmann, communications officer for the University of Texas Libraries.

Carolyn Connerat, associate vice provost for Student Succcess Initiatives in the Provost’s office, said the STEM commons is part of a holistic approach for the PCL learning commons to provide support for a variety of subjects.

“All students have to take STEM subjects as part of their core curriculum,” Connerat said. “All students will be able to benefit from a specific place they can get help in those subjects. It’s a centralized location for students to look for [help] instead of having to go to different classrooms in different buildings.”

The UT Libraries and SSI provided $425,000 to fund the STEM commons. In addition to UT Libraries and SSI, the College of Natural Sciences, the Cockrell School of Engineering, and the Sanger Learning Center combined efforts to create the space.

“The [Perry-Castañeda Library] is the most heavily trafficked library on campus, so it’s the best place to reach the largest amount of people,” Willmann said. “It also provides resources across the disciplines in a way that the more specialized libraries don’t necessarily have the capacity to do.”

David Vanden Bout, a professor in the department of chemistry, said many students learn best by working together outside the classroom.

“Help outside of the classroom traditionally came from office hours — through [teaching assistants],” Vanden Bout said. “Rather than students being in a particular section and having a few hours a week to ask someone a question, there will be a space filled on a regular basis to help with subjects such as physics, math and chemistry.”

Human biology junior Chilandria Lee said the new space will help students become more involved with their teaching assistants and classmates.

“I think the space will be a great place to meet people in the same course as you that you normally don’t have a chance to talk to in class and form a structured, productive study group since you’re coming together with the same goals for a certain class,” Lee said.