CSU Fresno -- November 3, 2003

Steelcase Partnership Provides 'Classroom of the Future' To Fresno State

California State University, Fresno and Steelcase Inc. announced a new partnership today when officials introduced the NEXT (New Education - Extraordinary Technology) Classroom of the Future that will make chalk and chalkboard a relic of the past.

"Today marks a new age in the evolution of our classrooms and learning environments," Fresno State President John D. Welty said a news conference where he was joined by Jim Hackett, chief executive officer of Steelcase.

Steelcase Inc., based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a world leader in office and learning environments and research. It has similar partnerships with other universities such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and the University of Michigan.

"We are introducing the NEXT (New Education - Extraordinary Technology) Classroom of the Future to inspire, empower, accommodate and link students, faculty, staff and the community in ways never thought possible," Welty said.

The NEXT classroom is a gift from Steelcase and its partner companies and will be located within the College of Social Sciences building located on the northwest end of the campus.

"The Fresno State / Steelcase Inc. partnership will continue the transformation of our university from a good institution to a truly great institution of higher learning for the residents of the New California," Welty said.

Hackett praised the university for aggressively tackling technological change in the classroom.

"The magnitude of these changes has rarely been experienced in the history of our country's educational delivery system," Hackett said. "In fact leading educators will point to Gutenberg and the invention of moveable type as a similar epic period which reshaped the very nature of education."

The retrofit of Fresno State's NEXT classroom includes an integrated flexible furniture environment -- pioneered by Steelcase -- consisting of products that can be folded, stacked and moved in concert with learning and teaching technologies that project, capture, send, save and even speak.

Construction is underway and will be complete for the spring 2004 semester.

A NEXT Technology Team will be formed to continue research on learning environments, identify those appropriate for renovation, and then design and implement NEXT Classrooms.

The team will then develop a set of multi-year recommendations, train university faculty and staff on the use of the NEXT classrooms and discover "best practice" findings related to each integrated learning environment. Ultimately that research will be used to plan and design new learning environments and new campus buildings.

Welty thanked Hackett and Steelcase Inc. for the partnership as well as Tim Swanson, president and partner of Peninsula Business Interiors for playing a key role.

At the press conference, Hackett outlined the partnership, saying the university and Steelcase will share responsibility for:

  • Defining the dynamic changes confronting the educational delivery system, within the real and virtual classroom;

  • Exploring, testing alternative learning environments which promote innovation in the educational experience;

  • Focusing efforts on the needs of the faculty and students;

  • Implementing findings, the Next Generation Classrooms, in a reproducible cost-effective manner.

Hackett said there is high level of need and urgency in the Fresno State/Steelcase mission because today's educational system is confronting a set of three unprecedented interactive demands:
  • Technology - specifically the expansive nature of wireless access to the internet;

  • The sociological and cultural impact this has on students and faculty;

  • The cost of infrastructure upgrades necessary to harness this resource.

Hackett said the NEXT classroom meets the challenge of helping educational systems respond to dynamic technological changes with new innovative teaching methods and resources.

"We must find and provide learning environments which will enable students and faculty to adapt, more so, to thrive in these exciting times," he said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Uribes, (559) 278-5366 or 246-1717

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