Obermann gets temp home


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Now that the Obermann Center's move is nearly complete, the staff and fellows who will occupy it will need to get creative with working arrangements.

A former bedroom will be divided in half by a bookcase to make two semi-private offices, and in another room, a bookcase will block a desk from view, said Neda Barrett, an administrative specialist.

While these arrangements may not be traditional cubicles, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies fellows are trying to make the best of a cramped situation, said Obermann Director Teresa Mangum.

"I think it's a real advantage to have the Obermann Center so close to campus," she said.

For University of Iowa professors working on grants for such creative projects as books or articles, the center — now temporarily located at 111 E. Church St. — provides a workspace away from their regular offices. The center moved from its former location at Oakdale Hall because it is slated for demolition next year.

Five staff members and seven fellows will eventually use the space.

And while the current location is smaller than the allotted area in Oakdale, Mangum said, they are optimistic about their new home. In fact, she said, it will help them as they plan to move to a permanent location in three to five years.

All seven spaces are full for the spring semester. The Oakdale space could accommodate about 20 or 25 fellows.

"The nice thing about having that area was if the faculty needed a space to work of a research project, they could have it," Mangum said.

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UI Vice President for Research Jordan Cohen is helping the Obermann Center's search for a location, but Mangum said she realizes there is a limited amount of space on and near campus.

"We realize there are teachers and students who need the space much more than we do, and we're trying to balance that," she said.

With the flood damage still being repaired, Mangum thinks the Obermann Center will more likely be moved into a renovated building rather than have one built.

"I'm really focusing on launching this center," Magnum said. "I think people are going to be happy with what we have here, so we will know exactly what we want in the new facilities."

The beige house on Church Street with dark brown trim formerly belonged to Baldwin Maxwell, a former head of the English department. When he retired, he gave his house to the UI.

Though the house holds a long history and space is limited, it's still an improvement over Oakdale, said Ken Brown, an associate professor of management organization.

"It was a very old building. The heating and lighting were not cost-efficient," said Brown, who served on the Obermann advisory committee and was a former Obermann fellow himself.

To deal with the smaller location, Mangum said it's just a matter of arranging furniture and maximizing office space. Overall, the tight fit is worth a more central location, she said. The center helps foster bonds between such different areas as English and medicine, she said. Being closer to the rest of campus is beneficial.

"We really want to make this a crossroads for the campus," Mangum said.

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