The case for Roger Williams

Roger Williams Hall (1895)

  • Location: Alumni Walk near Garcelon Field and New Commons
  • Current gross square footage: 27,279
  • GSF to be added during renovation: 6,819
  • Programs moving in: the Department of German and Russian Studies; the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; the Program in Asian Studies; the Language Resource Center; and the Off-Campus Study Office
  • Groundbreaking: spring 2010, with Hedge and Roger Williams undergoing simultaneous renovation as a single construction site
  • General contractor and architect: Wright-Ryan Construction; JSA
  • Completion: summer 2011
  • Cost: $15 million for both Hedge and Roger Williams


“You really can’t tell the early history of Bates College without Roger Williams,” says Kat Stefko, director of the Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library. Just as Bates was originally founded to educate Freewill Baptist youth, Roger Williams was built to educate Freewill Baptist ministers. After the divinity school closed in 1908, Roger Williams became a residence hall and, until 1964, also housed administrative offices.

Renovation Features

This rendering shows the addition, comparable to a pavilion, on the building’s east side.

An addition, comparable to a pavilion, will be added behind Roger Williams. A glass and metal tower, enclosing a stairway, connects and reconciles the two structures. The renovated building creates a better-defined border for the north side of the Library Quad. A new entrance facing Alumni Walk strengthens the walk’s identity.

Because Roger Williams and Hedge halls are supported only by their multi-wythe brick walls, both will be brought up to seismic and structural codes. For the most part, this will be achieved by creating a steel load-bearing structure within the existing masonry envelope.

As with Hedge, the renovated and expanded interior will feature a neat integration of classrooms, lounges, thesis rooms, faculty offices, and common spaces.

The Need

By gathering language programs and resources in Roger Williams — including the Off-Campus Study Office, the Language Resource Center and academic programs — Bates creates a home where students can enter the culture and history of their language, and where flexible spaces help faculty teach better and students learn better.

In fact, compared with the language offerings at Bates’ peer schools, this integration of resources is unique.

Languages need personalized spaces, says Emma White ’11.

Uriel Gonzalez ’11 of Von Ormy, Texas, is a double major in Russian and studio art who studied in Russia with Professor Jane Costlow during the Fall 2009 semester. Still, he hangs out more with his art professors and fellow majors in Olin Arts Center, which feels like a home. The corridor-dominated spaces in Hathorn aren’t as welcoming.

The result: “I’ve tended not to maintain the connections that I established in Russia,” he says. Russian and biological chemistry double major Emma White ’11 of Bainbridge Island, Wash., concurs. “Languages need personalized spaces that promote the feeling of immersion into the culture of that language.”

Bates language students have long engaged in improvisation and playacting, tactics that intensify the learning experience, explains Professor of French Mary Rice-Defosse. Learning this way is practical, too: “Students learn how to interact in a variety of communicative situations — everything from buying food to reporting an accident to police.”

Flexible teaching spaces in Roger Williams will help the kind of improvisation-based teaching that intensifies the language learning experience. For example, Associate Professor of French Kirk Read and his students create and act out adventures for Marie Malika d’Alger, a fictional North African heroine. “This kind of immersive classroom experience cannot happen when students sit in seats nailed to the floor,” Read says. “Language classes must call you out into the world.”

Roger Williams’ international flavor will also come from a full Cultural Kitchen connected to a flexible classroom on the ground floor. This combined space is ideal for special dinners, informal theater and improvisation. Dining Services chefs — several of whom are well-versed in international cuisines— can team with faculty and students to offer food-related events that deepen the understanding of languages and cultures.

On the first floor, the Language Resource Center uses the breadth of technology to give language students access to authentic materials and native speakers in real-time context. Next door is a Research and Development space, where Ellen Anderson, director of the Language Resource Center, helps professors use technology in their teaching and research.

“We help faculty conceive of new projects. We also help them fit their projects into the curriculum,” Anderson says.

For example, Anderson is working with David George, a lecturer in Spanish, and a student who is creating an interactive multimedia timeline — using video and sound clips, still images, and texts — focusing on dictator Francisco Franco’s powerful use of the media during his reign in Spain.

The move “underscores the academic mission of the study-abroad program at Bates,” says Associate Dean of Student Stephen Sawyer.

Also moving to the first floor of Roger Williams, from Lane Hall, will be the Office of Off-Campus Study. Moving to an academic building “underscores the academic mission of the study-abroad program at Bates,” says Associate Dean of Student Stephen Sawyer, who directs the off-campus study program.

He sees efficiencies, as well. Bates professors evaluate the language abilities of all students going abroad to non-English-speaking countries, so having the Office of Off-Campus Study near the language faculty will make this process work more smoothly for students and faculty.

In each graduating class, around seven out of 10 students will apply Bates study-abroad credit toward their degrees. “A hallmark of Bates study abroad is that the full range of students — various majors, interests, activities and backgrounds — take advantage,” Sawyer says. “Students with lots of travel experience go abroad, but so do students with no prior international experience and with minimal family resources.”

The move to Roger Williams, Sawyer says, supports the off-campus program’s goal “to encourage all students to consider study abroad and, if they are interested, give them the ability to do so.”

Space Inventory

Ground Floor (historic building only)

  • Medium Classroom (1) approx. 23 feet by 35 feet
  • Cultural Kitchen (1) approx. 10 feet by 18 feet
  • Lounge (1) approx. 13 feet by 13 feet

First Floor (historic building and addition)
Language Resources and Off-Campus Study

  • Language Resource Center approx. 28 feet by 30 feet
  • Research and Development approx. 15 feet by 31 feetLounge approx. 18 feet by 18 feet
  • Work Room approx. 19 feet by 22 feet
  • Off-Campus Study Library approx. 13 feet by 20 feet
  • Off-Campus Study Offices (up to 5)

Second Floor (historic building and addition)
German and Russian Studies and Asian Studies

  • Small Classroom approx. 24 feet by 28 feet
  • Thesis/Lounge approx. 19 feet by 19 feet
  • Lounge approx. 12 feet by 17 feet
  • Faculty Offices (up to 13)
  • Commons approx. 14 feet by 19 feet
  • Commons approx. 14 feet by 17 feet

Third Floor (primarily historic building)

  • Small Classroom approx. 24 feet by 28 feet
  • Lounge approx. 17 feet by 19 feet
  • Faculty Offices (up to 7)
  • Seminar Room approx. 19 feet by 20 feet
  • Commons approx. 13 feet by 19 feet

Fourth Floor (primarily historic building)

  • Small Classroom approx. 25 feet by 29 feet
  • Lounge approx. 17 feet by 19 feet
  • Faculty Offices (up to 5)
  • Thesis Room approx. 13 feet by 16 feet
  • Commons approx. 19 feet by 35 feet

Key Idea
Roger Williams will bring together, under one roof, nearly all of the College’s langauge programs and resources, including academic programs, the Language Resource Center and the Off-Campus Study Office. Compared with the language offerings at Bates’ peer schools, this integration of resources is unique.

Get Updated
Follow the progress of the Hedge and Roger Williams project with staff writer Doug Hubley’s Campus Construction Updates. Have a question about the project? E-mail Doug Hubley and he’ll answer it in a forthcoming update.

For More Information
For more information and giving opportunities, contact Jennifer Richard, College Advancement, 207-786-6476.