Renovations continue as Catholic all-girls campus prepares for future of learning
Walnut Hill Lane should look different as Ursuline Academy expands and updates its campus.
The all-girls Catholic college preparatory, which began to expand and update its campus in September 2020, opened its East Campus building this fall, and renovations continue for its existing West Campus building.
Director of communications Valerie Oates said the changes anticipate the future while taking advantage of Ursuline’s innovative structure, curriculum, and education.
“The sisters have always been very innovative over the course of the history of Ursuline,” Oates said. “And I think it’s just the next chapter in that long history of new things and really trying to prepare to be the best — to provide excellence — in Catholic education.”
As of Oct. 28, 2021, “The Campaign for Ursuline: Act, Move, Believe” effort to fund programs, operations, endowment growth, and capital improvements has raised $72 million toward an $85 million goal. Campus leaders anticipate beginning the final construction phase next summer and completing work in 2023.
The new 95,000-square-foot East Campus houses new humanities classrooms, visual arts studios, a 3D print studio, a new dining area, and soon, a theater. The existing West Campus building will include an updated dining area, administrative offices, a chapel, and student spaces for extracurriculars like volunteering and fitness.
“One of the great things about [East Campus] is the availability of extra space just beyond the classroom,” said social studies teacher Jeffrey Meyer.
Students can use that space to work in smaller groups before returning for class discussion, he said. “It just provides more space and [a] more inviting environment for learning.”
Large windows have also helped facilitate better learning, English teacher Megan Griffin said.
“We know how light affects learning, right?” she said. “When you have light, it just — I don’t know — it changes your mood. It changes your spirit [and] it changes your energy.”
Large whiteboards in the study spaces where students can meet with their friends allow them to practice math problems and conquer other assignments. The new dining area, called a distributed dining center, lets students and faculty grab a quick snack.
“My personal favorite is the distributed dining, that I can go and have lunch with my colleagues outside,” Griffin said.
Adjustable desks are also a student favorite.
“The desks are great because they rise to the level if a student wants to stand as they’re doing their reading or typing or anything like that,” Meyer said.
Oates said the school appreciates the continued support from the Ursuline community.
“So many good things that are still coming,” Oates said. “They have made it possible.”