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Illinois Breaks Ground on Siebel Center for Design

University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and alumni, representing a wide-range of disciplines across campus, gathered inside a packed tent for the Siebel Center for Design groundbreaking ceremony on April 24, 2018.

Construction is expected to begin this summer on the campus-wide hub, which will offer an abundance of tools and space for students to advance technology through collaboration and an interdisciplinary approach.

Bringing bright minds together at the groundbreaking was Thomas Siebel, chairman and CEO of C3 IoT and University of Illinois alumnus, whose $25 million gift through the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation supports the center.

"In the 35 years since I have left this university, I have learned that miracles, in fact, do happen," said Siebel. "But you need to plan for them carefully."

Careful planning has indeed gone into developing the 59,000-square-foot structure, designed by world-famous architect, Peter Bohlin.

"We brought about the best architects, the best designers; we went about building a facility that should really be the high-water mark in North America, if not the world, as it relates to design schools,"" said Siebel.

Joining Siebel on stage at the groundbreaking were: President of the University of Illinois System Timothy L. Killeen, Illinois Deputy Governor Leslie Munger, University of Illinois Chancellor Robert J. Jones, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Founding Partner Peter Bohlin, Designer Designate Rachel Switzky, and University of Illinois Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Provost Andreas Cangellaris.

What happens inside the design center is now the greater focus.

"In order to solve massive-scale AI, machine learning, and deep learning problems, I believe it’s necessary to collect teams of highly-intelligent, highly-motivated people and to work together to solve them."

University of Illinois alum, Rachel Switzky, who is leaving her position as executive director of business strategy at IDEO in Silicon Valley, is ready to accept the challenge when she steps into her new role as the design center’s director.

"It’s exciting because I haven’t been here in 20 years," Switzky said. "I look forward to creating something brand new."

"Now it’s a matter of how we plan out a road map of experiments, pilots, prototypes, first focus," she went on to say. "How do we scale the insights of those interactions and continue to create great things?"

"This building is going to be the physical manifestation of a movement," Switzky said. "Of putting the human experience at the center of all we do, of thinking and communicating in new ways; that honors all of the exploration, experiments, and evolution our facility and students engage in every day."

As Switzky tackles those questions before the Siebel Center for Design is slated to open in early 2020, Siebel continues to support his vision by giving back to his alma mater.

"I like to think of myself as an ambassador for the University of Illinois," he said. "I owe a great debt because of the skills that I was able to attain here. It’s just a great privilage to be able to make a contribution to the future of such a great university system."

Watch Full Ceremony

Siebel Center for Design

At Illinois


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