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A Confluence of Creativity

Renovation of the Beverly Rogers Literature and Law Building draws together students and faculty from the Black Mountain Institute, the English department, and the Honors College.

Campus News  |  Aug 24, 2015  |  By Diane Russell

The Honors College has a new home inside Beverly Rogers Literature and Law Building. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

Located near the center of campus, the newly christened Beverly Rogers Literature and Law Building (RLL) has been many things to UNLV since it first was constructed in 1981.

In its best-known previous incarnation it was part of the university’s library. The top two floors eventually were remodeled for the Boyd School of Law, but the lower two floors remained an amalgam of separate offices.

Now, after a massive renovation project that began last fall and wrapped up earlier this month, the space has been transformed to be a center for interactions. The once-cramped Honors College and the English department have moved in alongside the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute (BMI).

All three units are located on the first and second floors, which were almost totally gutted and rebuilt in the project. The English department is housed on the second floor, while the Honors College and BMI are located on the first.

Bringing People Together

In its revamped and expanded space, BMI now has public spaces rather than just offices, including a special collections library that contains attractive wood and glass display cases. Some of the cases will house books from philanthropist Beverly Rogers’ private collection. A small grouping of comfortable chairs occupies one corner of the room.

Joe Langdon, BMI assistant director, said that not only is there more room for faculty and students in the BMI quarters now, but that the institute also has gained an event space that can hold up to 75 people. That addition will make it possible for BMI to hold some of its readings there.

“One of the biggest things it’s going to do is create a physical space where we can bring people together,” he said. “One of our missions always has been to bring UNLV’s creative people together,” including faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, doctoral fellows, writers in the City of Asylum program, and others, he said.

“It allows all those different points of view to come together,” Langdon said. “We also are excited that the English department is just upstairs. We can stay in closer contact with the creative writing program and their department as a whole.”

Upstairs from BMI, English department chair Donald Revell voiced a similar sentiment, saying that being in such close proximity to the literary institute will benefit both students and faculty because of the interactions that will occur naturally as people bump into each other.

The additional space allotted to his department “is absolutely glorious,” he said. Visitors can linger in a large lobby with seating. Two large conference rooms featuring built-in projection technology are located along corridors of offices, many of which have up-close views of the trees outside.

Bringing all the faculty and graduate assistants into the same space will allow undergraduate students “to see the whole process as a continual flow” from undergraduate to graduate education, to faculty, and then to emeritus status, Revell said. Previously, the graduate assistants were housed in corners all over campus.

“It reinforces that this is a culture of a community of people,” Revell said. “It sets an entirely different tone.”

Project Background

The $12.5 million project cost covered demolition and new construction, as well as new furnishings, equipment, and the moving of tenants to their new locations, said project manager Liz Fuentes of the planning and construction department.

The vast majority of the funding for the RLL renovation project, more than $11 million, came from debt financing backed by student fees. Other sources included non-state funding and donor funds from the James and Beverly Rogers Foundation for furniture for the BMI.

The building has been renamed in honor of Las Vegas philanthropist Beverly Rogers. She has been a major donor to UNLV, as was her late husband, Jim, a former chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Their support of the university includes a $30 million commitment from the Rogers Foundation to BMI.

A sign that will be installed on the building explains some background on the renaming of the building. “With vision and passion, Beverly and James E. Rogers built a legacy of support for higher education at UNLV. In September 2002, this building was named The James E. Rogers Center for Administration and Justice in recognition of Jim’s leadership gift to the William S. Boyd School of Law. Prior to his passing in 2014, Jim requested that the name be changed to reflect the generosity and commitment of his wife Beverly to literature and ideas.”

The PENTA Building Group was the contractor for the project, while Pugsley Simpson Coulter Architects did the architectural design work.

What’s There

In their new locations:

  • BMI has 4,981 square feet of assignable space, as compared with the 1,938 square feet it had previously. Fuentes described “assignable space” as space that can be assigned to a particular occupant, department, or use. These are usually things such as offices, conference rooms, classrooms, and labs.
  • English now has 11,022 square feet of assignable space. In the Flora Dungan Humanities Building, it had 8,727 square feet.
  • Honors College has 6,217 square feet of assignable space. In Lied Library it had 2,640 square feet.

Also, an Einstein Bros Bagels kiosk is scheduled to open in the lobby on Aug. 24, the first day of fall classes. And, a patio has been added to the southeast corner of the building. It is adjacent to the Honors College but is available for use by the entire campus community.

Enlivening the Campus

Honors Dean Marta Meana predicted that having her college housed in RLL as fall semester starts “will bring a great energy to the center of campus.

“It was lovely to be in the (Lied) Library, but this is a big improvement. We are not hidden away on the third floor of another unit. Students walking down the mall will see us,” she said, noting the readily visible new signage.

And for the Honors students, the new quarters mean both more room and improved facilities. “We had a student lounge and a computer lab in the library, which is exactly what we have here, except these are much, much bigger and much better equipped,” she said.

The additional space is essential because of the tremendous growth of the college in recent years, Meana said. Three years ago the college welcomed 64 new students in the fall, compared to 267 new students this year. The total Honors College enrollment is expected to reach 735 for fall semester.

The increased space also means all the full-time Honors faculty will have their offices in the college. Previously, some of the college’s faculty members maintained their offices across other units on campus because the Honors College had no room for them.

“Our students tend to hang around the college,” Meana said. “Now they’ll be interacting more with the faculty while they are here.

“The students are incredibly excited about their new facilities. The university is investing in these students, which is very heartening to them."