Robert and Judy Rawson Establish Technologically Advanced Collaborative Learning Commons

Posted 2017-01-24 3:40pm

Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is set to unveil the new Judy and Robert H. Rawson, Jr. Learning Commons, an open space that will enhance technologically advanced collaborative learning.  The Commons was made possible thanks to a generous gift from longtime CSU supporters Robert and Judy Rawson.

“We are grateful for the Rawsons’ generosity and vision in helping us provide this magnificent resource for our law school community,” said CMLaw Interim Dean Lee Fisher. “Cleveland-Marshall’s Rawson Learning Commons will become one of only a few such collaborative learning spaces nationally that are housed in a law school.”

The 6,500-square foot Commons is housed on the second floor of the Cleveland-Marshall Law Library. Features of the innovative space include a large gathering area with SMART monitor technology for delivering annotated talks, a café, study rooms with monitors and file sharing capacities, and “pods” wherein students can gather for informal discussions and brainstorming. Several pods will be equipped with whiteboard tabletops on which students can quickly record their thoughts and ideas, and then capture a photo for future use. Technology throughout the space is designed so that students can share information with each other from their personal devices. The group interaction will prove beneficial to law students who will likely work on teams or need to collaborate with other attorneys when they enter the profession.

“Having been in the legal profession for more than four decades, we believe the Learning Commons is consistent with the direction the profession is moving regarding emphases on team effort and collaborative work,” said Robert Rawson, who served 15 years as partner-in-charge of the Cleveland office of Jones Day and nine years on the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees, including five years as board chairman. “Our hope is the learning commons helps to prepare current and future Cleveland-Marshall students to emerge from their legal studies as productive members of the community.” 

“We both know from experience that law school requires a great deal of work in three areas – reading, study and debate – and that students should be successful in all three to become strong attorneys,” said Judy Rawson, who served two terms as mayor of Shaker Heights, Ohio. “We feel the Learning Commons will give Cleveland-Marshall students the opportunity to work on all three areas within the same technologically advanced workspace.”

Innovative programming in the Rawson Learning Commons will give students, faculty, administrators and staff opportunities to interact in a natural setting. Initial plans include hosting classes, guest speakers and informal activities. Technology is in place to record students in mock trials and practice interviews, allowing alumni coaches and the Office of Career Planning to offer interactive feedback.

“The technology is sophisticated in nature but very simple to use,” said Lauren Collins, director of the Law Library and associate professor of law.  “Our expectation is that once students and faculty start exploring the technology, they will develop more innovative uses and the space will evolve around them.”

Overlooking the Cleveland skyline, the modern and colorful common area was designed by Bostwick Design Partnership and the CSU Architect’s Office and will feature scenic city photography captured by Judy Rawson.    

The Rawson Learning Commons will open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony January 30 that will kick off a week of grand opening programming hosted by Cleveland-Marshall faculty and staff.  The Rawsons’ gift is a component of Engage: The Campaign for Cleveland State University, a $100 million comprehensive fundraising campaign which will significantly increase available funds for needed scholarships and programs that help students succeed.


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