On Saturday, Sept. 10, the University of Tennessee announced official plans to begin the rebuilding of Melrose Hall. The decision is part of the Campus Master Plan, which aims to match UT’s infrastructure to its strategic vision. The new building is planned to house state-of-the-art academic spaces.
Melrose Hall, which shares a courtyard with Hess Hall, started as the home to up to 358 men each year. It was opened in 1948, but was later closed as a dormitory in 2009 due to antiquated utility systems.
Currently, the first floor is home to the Center for Global Engagement, International Student and Scholar Services and Programs Abroad office. The rest of the building lies vacant and is not currently suited for any housing or academic purposes.
The rebuilding of Melrose has been a part of the UT’s Campus Master Plan since the beginning. It is part of the first phase, referred to as ‘Near-term Priorities,’ along with the restoration of Strong Hall, which was completed in 2017. Future Near-Term Goals include the restoration of the Jessie Harris Building and Hoskins Library.
While the vision for the new building has been largely unknown to the UT community, it is known that spaces for a new University Honors program, Student Success Center and Student Disability Services will be included. The rest of the 130,000 sq. foot building will be dedicated to academic spaces such as classrooms and study space.
Pat Akos, associate vice provost & executive director of University Honors, began his role as executive director in July 2022 to expand and reimagine the program.
“We envision open, technologically advanced, collaborative spaces encouraging student scholars to interact with one another and faculty and staff,” Akos said.
Amber Williams, vice provost for student success and overseer of the project, hopes to design a space that combines unstructured study areas and academic services. She also believes a deeply engaged environment will encourage students to reach out to staff, peers and advisors on their own accord.
“This new state-of-the-art building, built on the footprint of Melrose Hall, is one investment in creating this unique, student-centered approach,” Williams said.
One of the building's major programs, University Honors, will serve as the updated version of the school’s existing Honors and Scholars program.
“University Honors was designated as the new name to clarify the programs' central, interdisciplinary and synergistic nature,” Akos said.
The new title, effective in Jan. 2023, more easily distinguishes the Honors program from over 40 different programs across campus.
Akos plans to take the student-centered approach to the next level by engaging students in the design process.
As the building has not yet entered the design phase, there is no clear plan for what student engagement will look like, or what level of involvement students will have in the process. However, as the space is designed for students, their input will be vital to creating a student centered environment that encourages these deeper connections. The plan’s leaders are hopeful that this approach to design will extend to future builds.
On many of the plans for the space, the building is referred to as an ‘Academic Building.’ This leads viewers to believe that while the location of the building will remain at the original Melrose site, the name of the new building will shift along with the purpose of the former dormitory.
“At this time, a decision about the name of the new building has not been made,” Williams said.
The timeline for the project has not yet been established, and the dates for deconstruction and reconstruction are unknown at this time. Currently, occupancy is set for 2026.