A space for collaborative imagination

“A Learning Commons becomes the physical and virtual catalyst where inquiry, imagination, discovery, and creativity come alive and become central to growth — personal, academic, social and cultural.”

The College’s latest development, The Learning Commons, was opened by the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide, Professor Peter Rathjen, at a function on Monday 18th March 2019. We were delighted to welcome many alumni and those involved in the project to the event. The Learning Commons is a space that epitomises the values of the College and offers the facilities and collaborative learning environment for an incredible student experience, now and into the future.

The Learning Commons realises another piece of the College’s Master Plan: 2025 Towards a Complete and Completed College. This Master Plan outlines a vision to improve the quality of student accommodation and increase numbers of learning spaces to maintain its appeal as a modern and welcoming College.

When the Grenfell Price Dining Hall opened in 1961, the first floor was temporarily subdivided into 15 student rooms to meet the growing demand for accommodation. In 1965, this space was converted into the College Library and that is how it remained for 54 years.

With the construction of East Wing in 2015, the Library was relocated to a new modern and purpose-built space in the Ian and Pamela Wall Academic Centre. At the end of 2016, and with the substantial increase in use of the Academic Centre, the Board examined the feasibility of developing this space to meet student demand, the increased tutorial support for students and additional space to be used for functions and events. Additionally, the shift in teaching and learning pedagogies invites continuing review, renewal and upgrade of learning resources, and facilities for tutorials, community and pastoral care and associated technologies.

It was fitting that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide was able to unveil the plaque to signify the opening of The Learning Commons. The Vice-Chancellor’s father, Professor Tony Rathjen, lived at St Mark’s whilst studying Agriculture, living in the adjacent Newland building. In declaring the space open, Prof Rathjen said that, “community gives you a sense of belonging, especially important for students from rural and regional areas and overseas. It is also the essence of a successful residential college. Congratulations on what you have done here in developing this space, and to those with the vision and generosity to support this development. This new space will help provide opportunities for all to engage fully in the intellectual, cultural, sporting, social and spiritual life of this busy learning community.” His sentiment that College students have the opportunity to meet others who they may not otherwise have met, from all academic disciplines, whilst broadening their experiences of the world, held true for many of those present.

In response, the Master said that “the College’s Commitment is also aligned with that of the universities’ outstanding reputation in teaching, research and engaging widely with the community. The value of learning with and from those who are different from us remains central to what we do – and we are committed to providing the best opportunities to students from many backgrounds, according to their ability, to benefit from College life.” It was the strong belief that students and staff learn from one another, through experiences of common life, through tutorials, through peer to peer learning, group work and shared experiences that has driven the refurbishment of The Learning Commons.

The College sincerely thanks those involved in the project, particularly from Cheesman Architects and Mossop Construction and Interiors. Without the many individuals dedicated to the project through management, design and engineering support, the College would not be able to successfully realise its vision.

The Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide with the Master after the unveiling of the plaque.
Alister, Jackie, Christopher and Margaret Lee with current student Arna Westhead who gave the acknowledgement of country
Dr Angela Evans with current students and senior leaders Ally Kenny (Senior Academic Tutor) and Evie de Jager (College Club President).
Craig Mudge, Christopher Lee, Raels Shearer, Ivan Shearer, Margaret Lee and Ben Robinson at the opening.
Cheesman Architects staff, Eva Olak, Melanie Colegate, Lachlan Spencer, Holly Spencer and Rob Cheesman.
Old collegians James Dunstan and Tom Eldredge who worked on the project for Lucid Consulting, with St Mark’s Property Manager Richard Foster.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Professor Peter Rathjen, officially opened The Learning Commons


Professor Peter Rathjen signs the College’s Guest Book, dating back to 1947.