The Centrality of Intellectual Life on Campus

Jan 07, 2019

Each day this week, we’ll explore five key areas of the Tsotsis Family Academic Center (TFAC) to share how the new building has already begun to transform learning on the Assumption campus.

The 62,000 square-foot Tsotsis Family Academic Center is much more than a building; it was constructed to provide space to encourage creative thinking, the sharing of ideas and collaboration across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines, reflecting the institution’s deep devotion to the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition. This vision is present throughout the inside, and outside, of the magnificent building that has already transformed learning at Assumption.

“For me, it was never a bricks and mortar project,” says President Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D.  “It was always about mission.” The mission begins in the piazza, an important piece of the Renaissance period where people came together and where important discussions happened. For students, discussions that happen in the classroom can continue in the piazza, as it did during the Renaissance period in Rome and Greece. A statue of St. Augustine, perched by the entrance of the building, reminds all those who pass of his spiritual and intellectual conversion. “It’s a symbol of what we hope will happen to the students in the building, a reminder of their intellectual and spiritual conversion,” said President Cesareo, Ph.D.

The materials used to construct this building complement one another, creating a collegiate, yet imposing, architectural appearance, but an appearance that is also inviting. Every aspect of this building, every detail has meaning and significance inspired by a vision of education that aims at transforming the lives of Assumption students. This building speaks to the centrality of the intellectual life of the campus and the centrality of the institution’s mission as a Catholic liberal arts institution, which seeks to integrate the classical liberal arts tradition with professional formation.  What takes place in this building represents the holistic approach to education that is at the heart of Assumption. 

As St. Augustine once said, “Today, more than ever, there is an urgent need for educated men and women who can fuse religious conviction and professional competence in the face of the most profound inversions of human values Western society has ever faced.” Those words remain relevant today. During their four-year journey of exploration and discovery at Assumption, students will discover their gifts and talents. But the impact of that education is not realized until students use their knowledge to make a meaningful difference in world, much like Augustine did 1,600 years ago.  That process commences in this academic center, beginning in the Brian and Paqui Kelly Atrium (Brian Kelly is an ‘83 alumnus of Assumption), which offers an informal gathering space for students, and the final two stained glass windows from Assumption Prep, connecting the institution’s history with its present and future.

From the Atrium, to the 400-seat performance hall and ballroom, and the 13 high-tech classrooms, President Cesareo says it “has a very classic look, a classic style, and a warm feeling. But when you see the classrooms, the design is very contemporary.”

“The new academic center is beautiful,” said Maire Guinee ’18. “The look and feel is inviting and comfortable, both inside and outside. This piazza area, with the fountain and the benches, is a place I will be spending more time when the weather permits. Though I am a senior, I am glad I have a year to enjoy this—the new study spaces, the café, performance center, everything. Future Assumption students are very lucky to have the opportunity to study and grow in this building.”