What a difference a few months makes. In April, the faculty and staff of York’s School of Social Work were at the farthest flung part of the Keele campus, toiling in a cramped dark space they had long outgrown. Today, they are unpacking the last of the boxes in their newly renovated eight-floor digs in South Ross Building.
The School of Social Work’s new reception area
Light, bright and airy, the new space offers a better learning environment, with two dedicated classrooms, a multi-purpose meeting room that can be converted into a 100-seat event hall, updated bathrooms and kitchens, faculty rooms and much more.
“Everyone is happy with it. It’s beautiful,” says Barbara Heron, director of the School of Social Work in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “No one can believe how lovely the space is.”
Even the lobby is spacious and welcoming to students and visitors. In addition, the design maximizes the light from the many windows that look out over the campus. “This is a huge positive change,” says Heron, noting the light coming in makes all the difference.
One of the new bright classrooms
When Osgoode Hall Law School vacated the offices in the Ross Building to move into the newly renovated Ignat Kaneff Building, the School of Social Work got first dibs on the vacated area.
As the space was designed with the School’s input – right down to the colour of the carpet and walls, and the type of desks and chairs – the elements perfectly match its needs. There are 11 soundproof, individual communication labs where students can conduct practice interviews, spaces for the undergraduate and graduate student associations, offices for part-time faculty, a resource room, student lounges, computer labs, a faculty meeting room, hydration stations to fill up on water and plenty of storage.
The new staff lunch room
As social work is so interdisciplinary, there will now be more opportunities to develop collaborations. That comes with their new location in the Ross Building at the heart of Keele campus, as opposed to the Kinsmen Building, where the school moved to from scattered offices in the Atkinson Building in the late 1990s. And that was where it remained until this spring.
“You didn’t really have the opportunity to participate as much in things, such as Faculty meetings or events, because of the distance from Kinsmen to the centre of campus,” Heron says.
And as time went on, she says, space in Kinsmen became inadequate as the school grew, taking in direct-entry bachelor of social work students, as well as students in a two-year master’s degree program and PhD program.
Barbara Heron in one of the new meeting rooms
“Students really disliked having to make their way to the Kinsmen Building,” says Heron. “There was very little in the way of food available for them to buy, other than tuna in cans and noodles in soup in the vending machines. There wasn’t even a coffee machine.” At the Ross Building, there are food choices galore just an elevator ride away.
What’s amazing about the whole experience, says Heron, is the feeling that they’ve arrived.