Donors and Florida Southern College alumni Nick and Ashley Gibson Barnett were on hand for the official dedication of FSC's new outdoor classroom. (Photo by Calvin Knight)
Mar 17, 2021
Under a sunny and pleasant Monday morning sky, six Florida Southern College trustees joined other special guests and several dozen members of the Florida Southern community in the campus courtyard of the J. Carlisle Rogers Building to officially dedicate FSC’s new Ashley Gibson Barnett ’13 and Nick Barnett MBA ’18 Outdoor Classroom.
On March 15, guests wearing masks and observing physical distancing guidelines attended the dedication ceremony, which ended with a celebratory ribbon cutting. Florida Southern’s president, Dr. Anne Kerr, acknowledged the educational challenges caused by COVID-19 while marking the establishment of an inviting outdoor space that is enjoyed by students and faculty members alike.
Dr. Kerr thanked donors Ashley and Nick Barnett “for their wonderful generosity, to help the dream of this outdoor classroom become a reality. … We know that this outdoor classroom will long be used, and has already become one of the favorite classroom spaces for faculty. Many faculty are telling us that the sharing, the interaction, has been so much more informal and open – and students who are typically shy have been able to share more – just by being out here, around a table.”
The open-air classroom, which is shaded by a large red-and-white striped awning, consists of an anchored table of dark granite measuring approximately 6 feet wide and 36 feet long. Seating is available for 14 individuals, generously spaced to comply with physical distancing recommendations, making this new location a welcome setting for safe and relaxed academic interactions.
“In the life of every great private college, there are a few individuals and families that shape the course of an institution’s success and place in history,” Dr. Kerr continued. “Ashley and Nick are such individuals for Florida Southern College, and it is truly an honor to have their names on this prominent and important learning space.”
Jason Rodda ’02, a member of FSC’s Board of Trustees and vice chair of the building and grounds committee, extended his sincere appreciation to the Barnetts for their investment in the College on behalf of the trustees and his fellow alumni. “I would have loved to have had a space like this,” Rodda said, “to be able to have a unique space for formal and informal learning.”
In expressing her thanks to the Barnetts, Madelyn Walsh, a current senior who serves as president of the Student Government Association, noted that Ashley Barnett had held that position while a student at FSC.
“FSC is known for engaged learning,” Walsh said, “and this classroom is an example of how we can be engaged with our professors and fellow students. It has become one of my favorite spots here on campus, as well as a favorite spot of a lot of our students. Even in the evening, you can see students studying here.”
Speaking for her husband and herself, both of whom are “very proud Mocs,” Ashley Barnett reflected on the widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “2020 has taken so much away from everyone; people have had to make many sacrifices, large and small,” she said. “I think back to my time at Florida Southern as genuinely some of the best years of my entire life. The thing that these students should not have to sacrifice is their college experience.”
Through their generous gift to create this outdoor study space, the Barnetts have been happy to help “get some sense of normalcy and fun back to the students,” Ashley Barnett added. “We hope that everyone enjoys it!”
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