McGrogan Active Learning Center

Gainesville, FL – Students in the University of Florida’s Innovation Academy now have a space to match their creative spirits in the $240 thousand McGrogan Active Learning Center.

“This center will provide a model for active learning classrooms that help facilitate collaborative environments that not only prepares future innovators but it will also has the potential to develop the future,” said Dr. Jeff Citty, Innovation Academy Director. “We are eager to begin holding classes and have students enjoy this new exciting space.”

The Innovation Academy was launched at UF in 2013 to foster creativity, entrepreneurship and critical thinking in students to prepare them for the workforce.

The center is named after UF alumna Sue McGrogan, a healthcare executive with more than 20 years of success building transcription service organizations to serve world-class solution providers. With her business style built on teamwork and leadership, McGrogan saw IA as the perfect way to give back to her alma mater.

Amy Bucciarelli, the Academic Coordinator for IA, will teach a creativity course in the center. She said students will benefit from the center’s focus on using available technology and encouraging collaboration.

“I have taught creativity courses in classrooms where you cannot move the tables and there is very little white board or collaborative space.” Bucciarelli said. “In a classroom with fully movable furniture, innovative technology, and active learning space the energy from the students is completely different.”

Bucciarelli has taught the Creativity-in-Context course and Creativity-in-Action courses as part of the Innovation minor. The minor is exclusively offered to IA students and focuses on creativity, entrepreneurship, leadership and ethics. In the future, she will also use the new classroom to teach the IA Senior Project course.

The center was designed as a multi-purpose classroom that could also function as a space where students, faculty and staff can collaborate, study, host events or get a cup of coffee. The designer, Jason Meneely, is a UF professor in the Department of Interior Design and has previously taught IA creativity courses.

This is the fourth active learning center he has designed for UF’s campus with the goal of straying from traditional lecture-style classrooms.

“When you make a space that functions not only as a classroom, but as a common, kitchen and meeting space, you start to get those other dimensions and flexibility and that is really critical continuing learning outside of the classroom,” Meneely said.

The center has movable tables and chairs that encourage students to form groups and collaborate. Huddle boards, personal-sized dry-erase boards, are located around the room for students to easily share their work with their classmates. Amenities like these remove barriers that hindered IA creativity courses in the past.

When designing this room, Meneely said he focused on the idea that professors are no longer the sole key source of knowledge, that information can be co-created and come from all directions of a classroom.

The McGrogan Active Learning Center takes advantage of students’ access to technology like personal laptops. In this classroom, anyone can wirelessly share his or her device to any screen, not just the professor.

“I think making the classroom a space where people want to gather and spend time in is critical,” he said. “These kinds of spaces hold a lot of promise.”

Emily Briano, a second year Innovation Academy student, has already used the center as a meeting place for an IA student organization, for lunch and to study. She thinks the space is an improvement from other classrooms on campus.

“I’m looking forward to having classes there,” she said. “It has an inspiring atmosphere.”

Article by: Nina Cusmano and Kelli Kaufmann, IA Seniors