Public Affairs Center

The Public Affairs Center (PAC), constructed in 1927, was originally designed as a residence hall by the prominent firm McKim, Mead and White Architects of New York, NY, on the former site of the observatory. The original 1927 PAC building is approximately 48,000 square feet.  In 1954, an 8,000 square foot addition was constructed to the east of the original 1927 building to accommodate classrooms and offices.  Today, PAC is home to Government, Economics, History, Sociology and the College of Social Studies and is one of the most utilized academic buildings on campus. In the spring of 2017, PAC classroom enrollment was among the highest on campus with 3,570 students enrolled. A survey of students and faculty in 2015 by Sasaki identified PAC as one of the least desirable classroom buildings on campus.

Wesleyan engaged Newman Architects of New Haven, Connecticut (Additions and Renovations to Boger Hall, 2012, and Fisk Renovations, 2016) to complete a building condition assessment, program and schematic design for PAC. The building condition assessment concluded that the original 1927 PAC building had good bones and was well suited for modernization. However, the deficiencies in the 1954 addition, including but not limited to low head room, physical barriers to accessibility, lack of natural light to the interior, and obsolete mechanical systems,  were insurmountable.  The proposed project will modernize the learning environment, remove physical barriers to accessibility, address deferred maintenance, will incorporate the campus planning principles and will be constructed with sustainable design features.   

To accomplish these goals,  it is proposed that the 8,000 square foot 1954 addition on the east side be removed along with the corresponding network of exterior stairs and be replaced with a 20,500 square foot addition.  This addition will house classrooms, the College of Social Studies and a forum space that provides a network of formal and informal learning space and a transparent connection to the existing building. The proposed forum will be designed to bring natural light into the building and will connect to a series of outdoor spaces.  The 4,500 square foot link to the west of PAC constructed will be replaced with a 5,400 square foot new art gallery connected to Olin Memorial Library, where the Davison Art Collection classroom and storage were moved in 2019.

The construction materials and technologies will highlight Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainability. The project will be designed to LEED standards and will feature LED lighting with daylight dimming and occupancy sensor controls.

Public Affairs Center has been named in honor of John Frank ’78, P’12 and Diann Kim P’12 and will reopen for classes this semester.

The Frank Center for Public Affairs will house offices and classrooms for the economics, government, and history departments, as well as the College of Social Studies. It will boast a more energy efficient layout—including radiant panels for heating and cooling, displacement ventilation, and a green space on the roof—and expanded areas for serendipitous conversation and spontaneous collaboration, establishing the Frank Center as a hub for interdisciplinary work in the social sciences.

John Frank, who has served as Chair of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees since 2020, and his wife, Diann Kim, are longstanding advocates for Wesleyan, supporting numerous University priorities over the years, including the writing program, financial aid, the Wesleyan Fund, and facilities. With their gift to support the development of the Frank Center, they affirm Wesleyan’s commitment to creating physical spaces that foster interdisciplinary learning. This commitment goes back a long way—in 1954 a gift from the Surdna Foundation created the Public Affairs Center in honor of John E. Andrus, Class of 1862.

Noting his own experiences as a history major at Wesleyan, Frank said, “The critical thinking and writing skills I developed at Wesleyan—largely through the study of History, Government, and the other social sciences—have had an enormous impact on my life. Diann and I are delighted to have the opportunity to help ensure that future Wesleyan students will continue to have access to the types of formal and informal spaces that facilitate learning.”

Of the newly renovated space, Dean of the Social Sciences and Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein shared, “The best condition for collaboration and cross-pollination is proximity. Thanks to its being light, bright, and beautifully appointed, the Frank Center is a place everyone will want to be. And when students and faculty meet one another in both planned and unplanned ways, we model the kind of ‘public’ that grounds the work of the Center. Sharing space with people of diverse backgrounds, commitments, skills, and concerns, we hope to widen our worlds, approach old problems in new ways, and sometimes even change our minds.”