Artist rendering of the new CDIS building. Photo credit: LMN Architects.
In 2019, the iSchool became a founding department of the School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences (CDIS), the newest school at UW–Madison. And as we shared in the last issue of Jottings, CDIS is building a brand new, state-of-the-art home, scheduled to open in fall 2025.
Here is an exciting update: This summer, CDIS met a $50 million challenge grant from John and Tashia Morgridge – creating a $100 million net impact on this transformative project. Matching the Morgridge’s challenge grant puts us one step closer (with much work left to do) to the ultimate goal of raising $260 million for the largest privately funded building project in the history of the university. We have now raised $245 million toward our final goal.
A hub for collaboration
The new facility will bring the iSchool community under one roof with the other CDIS departments, Statistics and Computer Sciences. With approximately 343,000 square feet of space, it will be a hub for iSchool research and instruction, and a gathering place for students across a range of academic domains. To that end, the entire second level of the building will be devoted to the Becky Blank Student Commons, named in honor of the late Chancellor whose vision and leadership led to the creation of CDIS. “The Becky” will be the future epicenter of the CDIS student community and offer a broad array of student support services, classrooms, open collaboration spaces, and specialized program areas to enrich the UW experience for all Badgers.
“The student commons will provide spaces, services, and people that make collaboration easier and more effective,” said CDIS Associate Director Kristin Eschenfelder. “I’m excited to see our students work and connect with one another in this cutting-edge space.”
The commons will be based on the second floor of the new building and will also include learning-focused and student-centered spaces on multiple floors. There will be plenty of room for iSchool students to work individually and together, and all areas of the commons will be designed as welcoming, inclusive, and equitable spaces. As the iSchool’s programs grow—including the new undergraduate major in Information Science—the commons will offer the requisite space to accommodate an increasing number of students and help them thrive.
“The iSchool is grounded in libraries, and for over 100 years, the School’s primary focus has been on libraries, users, and librarians. We have therefore thought a great deal about how people will use libraries in the future, and what future libraries will look like,” said iSchool Director Alan Rubel.
“Members of the iSchool took the lead in developing the vision for the new commons,” Rubel added. “That vision is of a highly welcoming, collaborative, flexible, and responsive space.”
“Our aim is to help students, faculty, staff, and community to work more across interests and disciplines, and to draw students deeper into our fields.”
Alan Rubel, iSchool Professor and Director
Designed to provide versatile workspaces and traditional library functions, the commons will also feature an information desk to assist visitors, as well as open and reserve collections to support academic coursework and research for iSchool students and faculty. The Text Technologies Press—a full-service typography and letterpress printing shop, used for years by the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture—will also be on-site at the CDIS commons. In short, the commons will enable the creation and growth of vibrant learning communities across the iSchool and CDIS.
Building with the future in mind
In addition to its collaboration-focused design, the building will be the most sustainable structure on campus, with elements to conserve water and harness renewable energy—including rooftop solar panels and a solar trellis—integrated into its design. To help reduce the urban heat island effect, the building will incorporate green roofs as well as many ground-level plants. And to celebrate the state of Wisconsin, designers have woven aspects of the state’s natural and cultural history throughout the facility.
In today’s information-based society, shared spaces like the CDIS building are essential for fostering interdisciplinary collaboration—a primary goal of CDIS since its inception. And as Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said at the building’s groundbreaking ceremony, the facility will nurture the creation of “entire innovation ecosystems” that “ignite groundbreaking discoveries.”
The iSchool’s students, faculty, and staff will play a key role in these discoveries, offering critical insights about how data, computing, and humanity interact—and about the moral and ethical dilemmas posed by emerging technologies.