College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters: A historical insight into the creation and evolution of CASL

April 21, 2022

casl facade

Twenty-four years ago, four architects presented the design concept for a building that would house the humanities, mathematics, and behavioral sciences departments at UM-Dearborn. The planning for this project took years but was finally actualized in 2001 into what is commonly referred to as CASL, aka the College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters.

At the design meeting, members of the university were able to learn about the proposed features for the new CASL Building as well as the ideologies behind some of the design choices. One of the project’s architects, Coke Florance, explained that “the faculty had established a certain goal with respect to the building: that it underscore the significance of liberal arts at UM-Dearborn; that it provide a strong identity for the campus; that it be a student-centered building.” 

Up until this point, the university was yet to create a space for students to spend time between classes. One of the hopes for the CASL Building was that it would fill this gap through the use of open seating areas.

rotunda full
Rotunda

In explaining the design concept, Florance pointed out that “the basic strategy was to provide generous light and views for the public spaces and controlled light and views for the general classrooms on the ground floor.”

This design concept will seem abundantly familiar to anyone who has stepped inside CASL. The foyer is enveloped with floor-to-ceiling windows, making the building’s entryway bright and inviting. The choice to control the amount of natural light in classrooms was due to the college’s use of advanced electronic and technological equipment which required the rooms to be darkened.

In addition to lighting, John Pressley, CASL dean at the time, explained that “certain elements of the design, including the serpentine wall and the rotunda, reflect the history of Dearborn. In addition, as a practical manner, the master plan calls for buildings to face inward toward the green part of the campus, away from the parking lots. While this building complies with that, at the same time, it projects an interesting facade toward the parking lot.”

The rotunda mentioned above can be seen in CASL’s central area. The window-covered, student hub is round in shape and can be seen from all four floors of the building. In the images shown below, you can see the rotunda and serpentine wall that Dean Pressley highlights, as well as the building’s facade.

What’s Been Added Since?

Since its inception, there have been numerous additions to the College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters that were created to enhance and accommodate the changing needs of its students. Some of which include:

Archaeology and Biological Anthropology Lab - This lab space, utilized by the anthropology and archaeology departments, is an area students can use for independent study projects, research, and teaching.

Math Learning Center (MLC) - The MLC is a great resource for students that offers free walk-in tutoring, exam preparation and proctoring, mathematical and statistical software assistance as well as a study space.

Center for Arab American Studies (CAAS) - The Center for Arab American Studies — which spearheads many wonderful projects, research and cultural programs — serves as a center for academic inquiry and creative expression for the investigation of the Arab American experience.

CASL Media Studio (upgrades) - The CASL Media Studio is a production area that is mainly utilized by our Journalism and Screen Studies (JASS) students. This space includes a 30'x30' full-service TV studio, an audio production studio, and several suites of Macintosh workstations incorporating Adobe Creative Cloud.

*Note: JASS will be changing to JuMP! (Journalism and Media Production) starting Fall 2022.

Quotes for the Proposed Design of the UM-Dearborn College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters Building were taken from the “Proceedings of the Board of Regents (1997-1998).”