Since May 2011, the University has experienced major and historic construction projects as part of the “Transformation of the Campus Landscape” project. The central focus of this initiative is to improve the quality of life for Villanova community members and enhance the visitor experience. This effort is the product of a large operation to create “a carefully-designed campus core that is highly integrated, vehicle-free, pedestrian-friendly, more accessible to people with different mobility needs and more aesthetically beautiful,” as explained by the project’s official website. This implementation of the University’s Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan is the result of extensive research and student feedback that has largely driven the direction of the multitude of renovations.
The fourth and final phase of this project commenced this past summer and welcomed students back to school with orange construction nets, fences and a circuitous route to Tolentine Hall. “While construction projects can be disruptive and cause temporary changes to your normal routines, it is important to remember that these short-term inconveniences will benefit Villanova for generations to come,” University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D, said. In that same statement, Rev. Donohue recognized and thanked the Office of Facilities Management for their persistence and dedication to the massive undertaking.
Starting from Bartley, working through the quad towards the Connelly Center, to the Oreo and now Mendel field, one of the central focus points for this comprehensive campus masterplan is “making the campus more accessible and improving the outdoor space” with “purposeful pathways” instead of an amalgamation of haphazard walkways, said Robert Morro, Vice President for Facilities Management and father of current student Rob Morro ’20. A critical aspect that Morro mentions is the separation of pedestrian and vehicular walkways. Although parking has been pushed to the perimeter of campus, Morro says that there is a tradeoff with the extra distance to campus. The middle of campus is now home to tremendous pedestrian friendly access, especially with the needs of handicapped students. He credits architect Mark Thompson for transforming previous inhospitable areas of campus, such as the walkway between Vasey Hall and the Connelly Center, into “outdoor living rooms” where people can come together and engage in their surroundings. Morro focuses on purpose and connectivity in his work and collaboration with his team despite facing some formidable difficulties.
The challenges have been threefold, according to Morro, with the first issue involved funding. Morro details that the project had to be spread out because of the magnitude and scope of the funding required. Second, his office takes into account the inconvenience that the construction poses to students as he wants to alleviate the disruption that accompanies the projects, such as the current road in front of Tolentine Hall. The third challenge that Morro mentions is coordinating with ongoing operations, such as the Pavilion construction. “We cannot just shut down the Pavilion to renovate it,” said Morro. “The basketball teams, men and women, have to schedule their games— they start that at least a year or two in advance… there are a lot of logistics that go into individual projects as well as tying them together. He cites a five year plan that gets revised and evaluated every August/September to help address the logistical difficulties that organizations such as intramurals, graduations, ROTC and even weddings. As of now, any future bride that wishes to be married in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church immediately encounters a note on the registry that informs them there will be construction in front of the Church. The construction on Mendel Field is currently planned to be completed in two phases: the first from May 2017—November 2017 and the second will begin in May 2018—November 2018. As of now the main road to Tolentine is set to reopen this November. The long term changes to Mendel field details creating a circular walkway around Mendel Field and constructing three new plazas at the Monastery, John Barry and Old Falvey.
In the Riptide Pictures production lab in Garey Hall, a cardboard sign hangs on the wall with the following words etched across it. “Nothing in Africa looks the way it does on accident. ~Dr. Nance.”
These very sentiments are echoed in the work of sixteen University students and their professor.
This past Oct., students in a Social Justice Documentary class under the leadership of Professor Hezekiah Lewis travelled to Ghana, Africa, with a goal: to experience Ghana and capture footage for their documentary. However, what they got was so much more.
The documentary is entitled ‘Sankofa’ and tells the stories of a man named Marquis from Philadelphia and Godsway from Ghana. The pair, both African- American men, are influenced by each other even though they are thousands of miles away from one another.
The film attempts to address the concept of mental slavery that has been afflicted onto people as a result of slavery and colonialism. It shows the power of knowing who you are and where you come from.
The documentary is slated to appear May 4th in Philadelphia.
In reflecting on her time in Ghana with Riptide Pictures, Madiah Gant ’19 relates that these two weeks were certainly a cultural shock. Sharing that upon her return, “the Africa people were asking me about was not the Africa I experienced.”
Gant explained that even after the initial arrival in Africa, the community told the group that if they need a home they have one here and that the words “you’re my brother/sister,” were used regularly.
Gant thinks the global experience is really important and helps to put into perspective what you are seeing. She recalled that she saw much beauty and richness in Africa and has so much more appreciation for the things she saw which she could have never imagined.
Sarah Davis ’19 likewise shared that coming back from Ghana and trying to talk to people was difficult because they did not go and experience what she did. She found it difficult to summarize all the group went through in a short conversation and ended up not being able to fully tell people about it.
Davis came into the Social Justice Documentary class interested in film as a whole as well as the social justice aspect. Her expectations have been far exceeded. “This class has challenged me to grow in my perceptions of the world and finding my own identity,” Davis said. “I’ve learned so much about film and that I actually want to do this with my life.”
Aside from the work of the students, another important figure of guidance and leadership comes into play for this all to run smoothly.
Davis had nothing but high praises to sing of her professor, Hezekiah Lewis, and the instrumental role he has had in the formation of this documentary, “The time, effort and passion he gives to this class is unparalleled to anything else I’ve ever done at Villanova,” said Davis.
According to Davis, throughout the trip Lewis emphasized opening up and putting themselves into the film, which helped it to take form.
As these talented and devoted students and their exemplary professor come together, it is easy to see that Riptide Pictures has a story to tell.
As they work to earnestly piece the puzzle of their experiences together, they will bring us a statement of justice and truth.