A newly renovated campus building that got its start as a fraternity house in the 1950s has been transformed into a faculty retreat that will promote camaraderie and collaboration at The University of Texas at El Paso.
The Faculty Center and Lounge had a soft opening this summer and already has received positive reviews from some professors who see the advantages to having a special place to meet, work or just take a break.
The rectangular haven is located inside Honors House, the beige, single-story, wood-and-brick building off Hawthorne Street snuggled behind the Liberal Arts Building and the Academic Advising Center.
The lounge’s interior has a den vibe with comfortable chairs and tables arranged to allow multiple conversations. The inside decorations are still a work in progress, but there is some greenery and Wi-Fi. Around the corner is a kitchenette with a microwave and access to tea, coffee and water. The outside patio is partially covered by a slatted roof.
Elena Izquierdo, Ph.D., president of UTEP’s Faculty Senate and associate professor of bilingual education, praised the University for creating this multiuse environment.
“It is really good news,” Izquierdo said. “It takes work, not to mention funding, to both establish and sustain. I know that as faculty we will all come together to support it and, best of all, enjoy it.”
The Honors House has served the campus in different capacities through the years. It opened as the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house in 1952. The University purchased the property and used it as a Liberal Arts annex starting in 1968. Ten years later it became the Solar House, a regional information distribution center for the state’s Energy Extension Service. It became the Honors House in 1991. The Honors House was used by students who were part of the University Honors Program.
The lounge will share the site with the Center for Faculty Leadership and Development (CFLD). Marc Cox, Ph.D., CFLD director, said the lounge reflects the University’s culture of care and commitment to faculty that leads to enhanced opportunities and success for students.
Andrew Fleck, Ph.D., associate professor of English, said these kinds of faculty settings are important because they provide spaces for informal interactions with colleagues that could lead to productive professional collaborations. Additionally, he said the lounge’s proximity to the CFLD will give faculty members a better opportunity to learn more about the center and get involved with its programming.
Fleck, chair of the Faculty Senate’s Faculty Welfare Committee, said there is great value when professors leave their offices to network with their peers.
“I’ve heard a lot about the history of these centers, and I can say that many of us are excited about this new development in the heart of the campus,” Fleck said.
Faculty members may visit the center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays when the University is open. An official grand opening is being planned for the fall 2018 semester.
By Christina Rodriguez – UTEP Communications