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Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus has a new leader and will move into a more spacious home in the coming weeks.
Olga Davis, a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and a research affiliate of Mayo Clinic, has been appointed the new associate dean of Barrett Downtown.
Davis holds a Bachelor of Science summa cum laude from the University of Redlands, and master's and doctoral degrees in communication studies from the University of Nebraska. She came to ASU in 1998 as an associate professor in the Hugh Downs School.
At the Hugh Downs School, Davis has served as the leader of the Health Communication Initiative (HCI), a research collaborative that brings faculty and graduate students together in an inclusive and collaborative environment. HCI is one of six research collaboratives at the Hugh Downs School that allows scholars with expert knowledge in different areas to collaborate on projects of overlapping interest.
Her research examines the performative nature of communication, with a focus on the social determinants of health and health equity among underrepresented communities. Davis has been an affiliate faculty member in the Science of Health Care Delivery program at the College of Health Solutions on the Downtown Phoenix campus and has worked as a faculty research affiliate with the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center in the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.
"Dr. Davis brings a rich experience with the ASU downtown community," said Mark Jacobs, dean of Barrett, The Honors College and ASU vice provost. "Her teaching and mentoring has included many honors courses and honors theses, as well as courses on the subjects of gender and communication, health narratives, identity performance and human communication, and public speaking. She is a great fit for associate dean of Barrett at ASU downtown."
Davis takes the helm of Barrett Downtown just in time for the move of operations from the University Center (UCENT) on Central Avenue to Suite B in the Mercado complex at 502 E. Monroe St.
“Olga Davis will bring her leadership skills to the Barrett team,” said Linda C. Lederman, professor and director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. “Her interdisciplinary research, as well as her compassion, thoughtfulness and organizational skills, will be a true asset for the Honors College as they are for the Hugh Downs School.”
For several years, Barrett Downtown has been housed in approximately 4,000 square feet on the first floor of the UCENT, with several staff offices on another floor of the building. Now, Barrett will be in an approximately 12,000-square-foot contiguous space in the Mercado with offices for faculty and staff, classrooms, meeting space and other amenities.
“Barrett at the Downtown Phoenix campus of ASU is the second largest group of honors students at the university. Although their current space is centrally located in many ways, they are bursting at the seams for study space, for lounge space, for meeting and workshop spaces and for classrooms. The latter has been a particular problem, with tensions every day trying to find classrooms set up in a seminar format and available at the right times,” Jacobs said.
"The new Mercado space is at least three times larger. It is a vast improvement for the students, faculty and staff of Barrett Downtown and a very large investment of Barrett funds to make it happen,” he added.
In addition to faculty and staff offices, classrooms and meeting and study areas, Barrett Downtown’s new suite will have space for the Barrett Writing Center, a computer lab with printers, a conference room for thesis defense sessions, and multipurpose event space. There also will be areas to display artwork made by Barrett students, a place for commuter students and others to store and heat up meals, a Nintendo Switch operable gaming space and a room with video equipment students can use to record presentations and practice interviews.
One classroom will have the equipment needed for the Barrett Global Classroom, which allows Barrett students to connect online with students from universities in other countries for interactive classes.
There also will be a “thesis gong” that students can ring when they submit their completed theses, and a 5-foot punching bag that can be used for stress-reducing workouts.
The new Barrett Downtown suite will be open and fully staffed during regular, weekday business hours and will be accessible to students on evenings and weekends.
The new space will open in several phases. In phase one, faculty and staff offices will open on Aug. 20. Meeting rooms, collaborative spaces, a student lounge, computer lab and writing center will open as the spaces are built out and furnished this fall. In phase two, four classrooms will open in mid-October. Due to scheduling constraints, in the fall 2019 semester Barrett classes will be held in the UCENT and other ASU downtown buildings. Honors classes will be scheduled into the new classrooms for the spring 2020 semester.
“The move provides an answer to the student call for more space downtown," said Kira Gatewood, Barrett Downtown project manager. "Students indicated that the current suite did not project the magnitude and vigor of the Barrett Downtown community. Now that the footprint will quadruple in size, we can have more and better programs for students and dedicated classrooms for our signature courses, The Human Event and The History of Ideas.”
Barrett Honors Faculty Fellow Alex Young said he is looking forward to having offices, meeting and event spaces and classrooms all in the same place.
“We are happy to move into a place that will not only have more room, but better integrate our academic spaces with spaces for student programming, bringing staff, faculty and students together in a way that we hope creates a true home for Barrett Downtown. I'm quite excited about having classrooms tailored specifically to Barrett's student-centric model of seminar-style learning,” Young said.
Kacey Lorraine Cavanaugh, a senior Barrett student majoring in nursing said she welcomes the move.
“As a nursing student I am very excited that Barrett is moving to Mercado. I know a lot of nursing students aren't as involved in Barrett as other majors so this will be such a great opportunity for us to more easily take advantage of the resources that the office offers. I know a lot of people don't like walking to Mercado but it’s truly a beautiful building and Arizona Center, which is on the way to Mercado, is such a fun spot to sit down or grab some food,” she said.
Ranjani Venkatakrishnan, a Barrett student majoring in journalism, contributed to this article.