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Published September 09, 2013, 08:20 AM

Law School expansion makes room for more students

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A long-anticipated renovation to the University of North Dakota’s School of Law, adding more space for students, faculty and classrooms, could be complete as early as fall 2015, college officials said recently.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A long-anticipated renovation to the University of North Dakota’s School of Law, adding more space for students, faculty and classrooms, could be complete as early as fall 2015, college officials said recently.

Law school administrators say the expansion is more than necessary as the school is at its maximum capacity, forcing it in recent years to turn away qualified applicants.

“We have been cobbling together offices here and squeezing in an extra person there,” said Dean Kathryn Rand. “I think we’ve kind of lost sight of what this building could be.”

Securing funding for the renovation was a big win for the school. It has had only one major upgrade — the addition of the law library in 1973 — since the building was first constructed in 1923, according to UND.

The school moved quickly to get the project going after $11.4 million was approved for the renovation during the last legislative session. The firm Icon Architectural Group of Grand Forks was recently chosen to design the building, which is slated to begin construction in May 2014.

No space

Additional space is needed for students to practice negotiation skills, appellate advocacy skills and mock trials, Rand said.

The law school building, located at 215 Centennial Drive, currently holds a total of seven rooms to accommodate about 250 students — two large classrooms for lecture-style courses, two small classrooms that hold up to 40 students, the Baker Courtroom and two other small rooms. The project would expand the building farther north.

UND design focus teams will work the next few months to gather information from several people in the law school community for ideas for the building, said Paul LeBel, co-chair of the building planning committee and former provost at UND. No blueprints or details of the expanded building are available yet, as even the addition’s size has to be determined yet by the architect firm.

College officials say the project is long overdue. Since 2005, enrollment in the program has grown from 203 students to about 250, and the school’s inability to accept more students due to space constraints means they’re turning down qualified applicants every year, said Rand, a co-chair of the building planning committee.

LeBel said the entering class for law students nationally is shrinking, so UND is bucking the trend.

Icon, which first worked with the law school in 2007 to renovate a classroom, was chosen out of three others from the region. Icon is also designing UND’s new Information Technology Services building and its planned Athletics High Performance Center.

Icon also has a history of working closely with law schools, and they’ll be spending a lot of time doing that at UND throughout the semester, “tailoring the design to our needs and our future,” LeBel said.

Relocation

College officials hope to relocate a majority of the school’s operations, classes and faculty to space at the Strinden Center, Twamley Hall, Carnegie Building and other areas that open up after UND’s new information technology building is completed, LeBel said.

Some relocation has already occurred because of space constraints. Some student organizations and faculty offices have moved to other campus buildings, and many rooms serve multiple purposes, such as one that’s used as a rare book library, conference room, courtroom and working judge’s chambers.

During construction, Rand said they don’t want the school to be split up all over campus. While the period may be a bit harried, the relocation should help the school save on construction costs and time, and Rand wants the transition to be as smooth as possible, particularly for students, she said.

“It’s really important that for the students that are here for a three-year program that if we’re going to ask for their education to be disrupted for a year or more, we minimize the negative impact on their educational experience,” she said. “It’s our No. 1 priority.”

Call Johnson at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1736; or send e-mail to jjohnson@gfherald.com.

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