Ball State's Letterman building provides for a leading-edge education

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

August 31, 2007

Letterman Building
Early visitors to the David Letterman Communication and Media Building take in the sweeping view of nearby Shafer Tower and university green from a second floor landing above the building~~~s main entrance.
Ball State's new $21 million David Letterman Communication and Media Building is providing students with the knowledge and skills that should give them a distinct advantage when entering the work force.

Named after the university's most prominent graduate, the newest teaching and learning facility completes a three-building communications complex supporting three popular departments — communications studies, journalism and tele-
communications — as well as the Center for Information and Communication Sciences (CICS) and the Center for Media Design (CMD).

"I think David Letterman will be proud of the building because we have spent thousands of hours creating the nation's premier communications facility for our students," said Roger Lavery, dean of the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM). "Our new production facilities, for example, have the same equipment found at major recording studios and film sound studios in New York, Hollywood or London. As a matter of fact, our studio acoustics were tested recently, and we were informed they are as good as can be found - anywhere.

"For many years, Ball State has been at the forefront of integrating the latest technologies into our labs, classrooms and studios," Lavery continued. "The adjacent Ball Building was among the nation's best, but this new building is taking us to the next level. As a result of incorporating the newest communications technologies, our students are receiving an education that is second to none. They will be able to graduate from Ball State with a wealth of talent and practical experience that should allow them to go on to highly productive careers."

A former telecommunications student, Letterman now risen to host the "Late Night" program on CBS as well as creator of a successful television production company, has provided substantial assistance to the Department of Telecommunications through scholarships bearing his name.

Letterman also played a significant role in the development of WCRD-FM, Ball State's student-run radio station, in the 1980s and continues to support its operations.

New production facilities should prove enticing lure

Begun in early 2005, the David Letterman Communication and Media Building encloses 75,000 square feet of classroom, studio and faculty office space, much of it reflecting the latest developments in modern instructional building design, materials and construction.

"This new building will enhance the university's efforts in recruiting highly talented students and faculty," Lavery said. "We believe that very few colleges can offer the kind of student- and faculty-centered learning opportunities found in this complex."

Already in its first few weeks, students from various communication-oriented majors have been introduced to the building's advanced $1 million production complex that features five surround-sound editing suites and two surround-sound recording studios for digital cinema and video sound, as well as music acquisition and mixing.

For the quality acoustics of its various studios, including those of resident broadcasting stations Indiana Public Radio (IPR) and WCRD-FM, Ball State sought the expertise of Roger Noppe of Purcell and Noppe, who played a major role in developing the university's Music Instruction Building (MIB), opened in 2004. The nationally known expert's latest acoustical design includes rooms built within rooms, floating floors, an insolated heating-air conditioning system, Lucite diffusers for windows and other control innovations.

All told, the facility also includes 14 miles of cable for routing digital and analog audio and video signals to any of 2,400 data circuits connecting recording studios, control rooms, isolation rooms and edit suites. The top-of-the-line cabling was manufactured by Belden Inc., of nearby Richmond, Ind.

"All of our new TCOM studios and editing facilities are interconnected, allowing for maximum flexibility. And with a new fiber optic line to the Music Instruction Building, we'll be able to collaborate with our music technology students," said Stan Sollars, a telecommunications professor who assisted in the development of many of the Letterman building's production facilities. "This will open doors for our students and faculty to work with people from other disciplines, sharing ideas and developing new productions."

The entire complex is a far cry from the Arts and Communications Building facilities that Letterman used as a student in the 1960s when he was a disc jockey for WBST-FM, now part of Indiana Public Radio.

Both WCRD and IPR are now among the best equipped stations in the country. IPR studios have use of an Ecno computer system, which is similar to the main feed out system of NPR, which allows staff members to click and drag audio files, replacing the antiquated audio tape system.

Lecture hall and screening room will enhance learning

The spacious first floor of the new building also contains a new 110-seat lecture hall and a 30-seat screening room providing students majoring in the various communication fields access to some of the most advanced digital equipment in the nation.

The lecture hall features a high-definition projector and surround sound pumped through Tannoy V-net speakers designed to provide superb sound. The screening room, which also features theater-style seats and employs the same Tannoy speaker system placed behind a perforated screen so that the sound comes directly at the viewer.

"This will be the first time CCIM will have a state-of-the-art screening room to showcase some of the outstanding work of our students," Lavery said. "Over the years, we have won several major awards, including two Student Academy Awards. Now, we won't have to go to Hollywood to preview our best digital films."
 
Communication studies moves into new building

Lavery believes opportunities in the new Letterman building will especially enhance the Department of Communication Studies, which prepares students for careers as corporate communication specialists, sales representatives, communication and organizational consultants, human resource specialists and more.

The centerpiece of the department's new environment is a qualitative research facility - located on the second floor and shared with telecommunications - that will allow student and faculty researchers to observe participants through a one-way mirror as well as a new digital monitoring system. The facility was designed by Michael Holmes, former chair of the department and CMD Fellow.

Ball State's speech and debate teams, which are housed within the communication studies department and open to students of all majors, also will have better access to the digital potential of the new building, said Glen Stamp, department chair.

"Over the past several years, Ball State's debate squad has become one of the most competitive teams in the region and in the nation," he said. "The technological environment should help to heighten their abilities as public speakers."

Building is not only 'green' but built to spur collaborative partnerships

Along with environmentally friendly bamboo doors and an advanced heating-cooling system, the soon-to-be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified building is flooded with plenty of natural light and fresh air with alcoves and gathering areas to encourage student interaction. To promote even more collaboration, there is a balcony on the second floor and an open area in the three-story main lobby where students are free to enjoy the soaring atrium while sharing time with classmates.

"In today's business environment, people work as teams, and we wanted the new building to invite students to discuss and collaborate," Lavery explained. "For that reason, we added natural gathering areas on each of the floors outside of the classrooms and studios. We don't want students to finish a class and leave. We want them to sit down and talk about what they are learning."

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