Family center opening in 2006

By Frank Krolicki

The corner of Lincoln Avenue and Nevada Street in Urbana today is marked by towering cranes, trucks and mounds of dirt. But by spring 2006, a new family health information and research center is expected to take its place.

Laurie Kramer, a professor in human and community development, said the new Doris Kelley Christopher Hall would be geared toward campus and community members and is expected to have several unique functions.

“The first floor will have a library information center,” she said. “Here, anyone will be able to find resources related to family issues such as raising children and caring for elderly relatives via books, online information, videos, workshops and more.”

In addition, Kramer said the first floor would have conference rooms and a commons area where students can study or meet. She said this area could also act as a safe and quiet place for community health groups to meet.

The hall’s lower level will have classrooms and the upper level will contain faculty member offices. Kramer said a small house would connect to the hall, which will include a kitchen, dining area, living area and interview rooms. Families from the community can enter and be videotaped interacting and doing day-to-day activities, she explained.

“The results from these simulations and research will be helpful in identifying particular issues that families face and then trying out new ways of improving them,” Kramer said.

University graduate Doris Kelley Christopher and her husband Jay Christopher donated more than $10 million to build the center. Additional funding estimated at $1 million was provided by various university departments, Kramer said.

“This is the result of a very generous gift and we’d really like to see all different types of people make use of it,” Kramer said. “It will be open to anybody.”

Kramer said researchers will begin advertising for local families to participate in the studies once the center is completed. She also said she expected students to be involved in conducting the research.

Erin Dooley, a junior in LAS who lives near the construction site, said she thought the hall would serve a good purpose, but she was not sure how many students would take advantage of it.

“I think (the center) will be good for students in fields such as human and community development,” Dooley said. “But I really can’t see many other students making use of it without a specific reason.”

Susan Fowler, a special education professor, said she hoped an array of students and community members would find the hall to be helpful.

“I think whenever we are able to dedicate space to finding new ways of enhancing family life and relationships, it is a plus for everyone,” she said. “Just about everyone can relate to family issues.”