Nugent announces plans for “Petrick Idea Center” in 2022

Katie Fata

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan

President Georgia Nugent announced the Petrick Idea Center, an interdisciplinary living and learning building that’s size will rival State Farm Hall at a reception on October 1. The new building will serve as a functional and residential space for students. Construction is set to begin as early as 2022. 

Appropriately announced among alumni in town for homecoming celebrations, the Petrick Idea Center is funded wholly by Titans’ donations. The new building’s namesakes, Dave and Ellen Petrick, donated a bulk of the funding for the building and have also been involved in the development of the building’s purpose on campus. 

The University announced that the space will include “flexible meeting spaces for collaborating, conceptualizing and vetting new ventures.” It will also include a state-of-the-art “maker space” that will have tools for fabrication and creative projects, which is reminiscent of the original IDEA center currently housed in the Memorial Center. 

Sites on the northeast and southwest corners of campus are under consideration for Petrick Idea Center, and many students have expressed hope that the new building takes the place of Gulick Hall which is infamous among students for its aging facilities. 

The housing available in the building is estimated to be enough for up to 100 students but there is no word yet on if the housing will be restricted to those whose majors are relevant or students in a certain class, such first-year halls Munsell and Ferguson, or the theater community Blackstock Hall. 

“The possibilities for liberal arts plus professional learning, and for experiential learning, will advance even further at Illinois Wesleyan in a visionary way,” President Nugent said. 

John Quarton, director of the project, expressed his excitement at the impact the building could have. 

“It will be one of the first facilities of its kind at this scale at a university, grounded in the liberal arts,” Quarton said. 

The prospect of an interdisciplinary, entrepreneurial building on campus comes as a surprise to some after a year of conflict about the University’s support of and focus on the humanities. 

Discussions of cuts in the philosophy and sociology departments, among others, were the result of a curriculum review that came to a head last year that caused conflict among administration and students and faculty. 

According to the University, programming held within The Petrick Idea Center is meant to bring together students from across the disciplines to think about people’s needs and creative, ethical ways to fulfill them.

Dr. Michael Theune, chair of the IWU English department, said that ethics were an element included in discussions of the center in the 19-20 academic year.

He also noted that ethics seemed to drop out of the conversation, especially after the administration and board chose to put the philosophy on the chopping block. 

“It’s heartening to hear that ethics will remain an emphasis of the IDEA Center. I hope we’ll have the ethicists to teach it,” Theune said. 

Students echoed Theune’s comments about hopes for the center’s interdisciplinary support. 

“The English House was closed and Buck Library has gotten emptier. I hope that this building serves those purposes,” Alexis Ries, a senior theater major, said. 

Recent alumni in the humanities felt that the focus on an entrepreneurially-minded community could be misplaced. 

“I think a new building on campus is great. I think a new building for departments that have been pushed into CLA is better,” recent graduate Samira Kassem said. 

A student committee will be involved with making decisions on behalf of Titans’ to ensure that the building supports students’ needs. IWU has partnered with Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign, a Los Angeles-based architectural firm, to conceptualize the space and further plans will be announced later this year.