By Daniel Rothberg
By January 2012, the new independent research and interdisciplinary studies department should be operational if plans go as hoped, Director of Upper School Master Planning John Feulner said.
The Kutler Center for Independent Research and Interdisciplinary Studies, known as IRIS, will include three new classrooms and one office, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said.
All humanities classes as well as the Independent Studies program and the directed studies program will be centralized under the purview of IRIS by Fall 2011.
“Since those usually involve either intensive study or research, they fit under the mission of what the new department and center is about,” history teacher Larry Klein, who will chair the center, said.
The center is named in memory of Brendan Kutler ’10, who died in his sleep last December.
Jon and Sarah Kutler’s lead gift will fund the project, which will include a complete renovation of the Mudd Library to make space for the department’s new home. Those involved in plans for the Kutler Center said that they hope to construct the facility as a physical bridge between the third floor of Seaver and the top floor of the library.
“I think it will bring the library into the traffic flow of the campus a little more if there is the opening to Seaver,” Head Librarian Shannon Acedo said. “Anything that makes it easier for kids to get here and increases access to the library is a positive in my mind.”
After the Upper School Building Committee heard presentations from several architects this summer, Lester Tobias (Bryce ’10) was contracted as the architect for the project, Feulner said.
The Upper School Design Committee, which is comprised of trustees and Harvard-Westlake personnel, will be meeting soon with Tobias to review ideas for the center and finalize design, Feulner said.
“We are hopeful that we can meet the [January 2012] goal,” Feulner said. “That’s what we are going to shoot for.”
One goal for renovating the Mudd library is to modernize the facility.
“Our modernized 21st century library will still contain books, but there will also be dedicated space for collaborative work, and additional computer portals for completing online research,” Huybrechts said in a letter last June about the center.
In addition to constructing the center, the school is also focused on building a curriculum for the new department.
“This shouldn’t proceed in a strictly linear fashion,” Huybrechts said. “Otherwise, nothing’s ever going to get done.”
Klein said that the format of the Independent Studies and Directed Studies programs will not change from its current set-up.
In addition, Klein said that the department will coordinate internship opportunities for students.
“I’m looking forward to the idea that we will have an institutional infrastructure both physically and curricularly that will embody the spirit of Brendan, which was exploring knowledge for knowledge sake and not being bound by the structure of our traditional department set up,” Klein said.
Klein said that IRIS will develop original courses to incorporate into the curriculum in the future.
“Down the road, it’s anticipated that we will add new courses or have existing courses modify what they do,” Klein said.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to develop courses that give students the opportunity to do some independent research on their own,” Huybrechts said. “If every single student graduates from this school having done one independent research project of some sort, I think that would be a great gift for our students.”