Lehigh’s Williams Hall to become global hub

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The construction and renovation of the historic Williams Hall into a global hub for students and faculty is now in full swing.

Williams Hall “will be transformed into a dynamic center for the study of globalization,” according to the building’s website. Several departments, including Modern Languages and Literature; Religion Studies; Sociology and Anthropology; and the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs and Student Affairs will soon call Williams Hall home. The main floor will be named the Global Hub in with the hopes of giving students an opportunity to view the world from different perspectives, the website says.

Williams Hall, which is located at the heart of Lehigh’s campus, was formerly the home of the biology and geology departments, said Jennifer Nelson, ’90, ’92G, and regional director in the Office of Advancement. However, since the opening of the STEPS facility in 2011, Williams Hall has not seen much activity. Plans for the future use of Williams Hall started developing early last year, and necessary internal renovations began last December.

Nelson is one of several faculty members who will be affected by this move. She said she is excited, to say the least, to watch the plans unfold.

“Relocating Student Affairs to Williams Hall…will drive every student through the building at some point,” Nelson said. “This will allow for the Global Hub to get maximum exposure as students pass through. This move will also open up rooms at the UC for clubs and other programs since Williams Hall has so much space.”

The Global Hub, which will host several global-themed programs and lectures, boasts many new and exciting features, Nelson said. The Global Commons on the main floor will be renovated into a two-story atrium connected to the greenhouse, which will be fully accessible to students. It will also be the home of Lehigh’s newest coffee shop, The Global Café. Here, students will be able to watch international news broadcasts on several different screens.

Nicola Tannenbaum, professor and chair of the department of sociology and anthropology, said she has mixed feelings about the department’s move from Price Hall to Williams Hall.

“I am excited about the move to Williams; we are about bursting at the seams here in Price Hall,” Tannenbaum said. “The department has grown to 14 faculty members with 2 more coming next year, assuming our searches work out.”

However, Tannenbaum said the department has been located in Price Hall for 25 years, so she is not looking forward to the the preparation and organization that will be necessary before the move occurs.

The construction and renovation of Williams Hall would not be possible without the help of Lehigh alumni, including Herb Reommele, ’53, who donated a $5 million gift for the transformation of the historic building, Nelson said.

Nelson said the completion of the Global Hub is slated for late spring 2015, depending on the severity of the winter weather, and will be open for community use by next fall.

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