The common history of the Academic Commons
By Payton Williams
This semester, the Cameron University Academic Commons has been undergoing repairs to its roof, a new step in a storied history of past
The building, first built in 1961, didn’t become the Academic Commons students know today until September 2012. Prior to that year, the building was a student union where students could purchase food, eat and study.
Chair of the Department of Communication, English and Foreign Languages and former CU student Dr. Christopher Keller said that prior to becoming the Academic Commons, the former student union was commonly referred to as the ugliest building on campus.
“The building was completely different when I was a student, back in like, 1992,” Keller said. “Where the audio and editing bays are now, I
think was the post office, and where the classrooms are, there was a Pizza Hut.”
Years later, when plans for the Academic Commons remodel were underway, Keller was working as the adviser for the Cameron “Collegian” when Dr. John McArthur, then Vice President for Academic
Affairs, came to his office to discuss plans for a new newsroom.
“I remember it very, very clearly,” Keller said. “I was sitting in my office the newspaper adviser’s office was in Nance Boyer, where the Center for
Writers is and Dr. McArthur came in. He sat down, and he said, ‘If I gave you $100,000, what would you do with Journalism?”
This meeting, Keller said, was the initial spark for what would become the Convergence Journalism program students know today. McArthur sent Keller and retired Cameron instructor Dr. Steve Adams to a convention called NewsPlex, where the conception first began for what Keller, at the time, called “backpack journalism.”
“I told Dr. McArthur,” Keller said. “’Instead of a newsroom, I want every student that comes in that’s an editor, I want to give them a backpack with a DSLR camera that shoots video. I want a laptop, I want a portable mic, and portable lights, and I want production suite on that laptop. And that was what we built the idea of Convergence Journalism off of.”
The remodeling of the Academic Commons and the implementation of the Cameron University Newsroom are far from the only changes that have happened to the building in recent memory.
Last year, Cameron University started an E-Sports program in the former adjunct offices of the Academic Commons.
The E-Sports arena came about not only as a result of good luck, being that Dr. Keller happened to have moved out of his former office in the Academic Commons, leaving an empty space with a lot of electrical infrastructure needed for such a thing, but also as a result of his care for students, and his desire for students to have a range of fun and interesting activities available to them.
Keller said that every change made to the Academic Commons was deeply student-driven.
“I have blood, sweat and tears in every building on this campus, and the Academic Commons is one of my sacred spaces,” Keller said.
“Every change that was made to that building had you in mind.”