Skip to main content

Jacobs Center renovation will create collaborative space to address pressing societal issues

Project marks major step toward commitments outlined in Northwestern president’s inaugural address
jacobs center renovation
The Jacobs Center renovations will not only promote faculty collaboration but also enhance opportunities for students to engage with faculty and with one another — supporting the education of the world’s future leaders. Rendering courtesy of William Rawn Associates and Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects

Excitement is building as Northwestern begins preparations on one of the University’s top priorities, to turn the Donald P. Jacobs Center into a new hub for the social sciences and global studies.

The project, approved by the Board of Trustees earlier this month, represents a major step toward one of the commitments President Michael Schill outlined in his 2023 inaugural address to create the conditions for innovation at the intersection of academic disciplines.

“We have been working to launch this project for many years,” Provost Kathleen Hagerty said. “When President Schill arrived on campus in 2022, he immediately championed our vision to amplify opportunities for our talented faculty and students to engage with one another across disciplines in a central space on the Evanston campus.

Schill’s conversations with faculty in his first months as president affirmed for him the need to move this project forward quickly.

“Our social sciences and global studies programs are among the best in the world,” he said. “Bringing them together to enhance their work while also creating an inviting space for students right in the middle of campus was so important that we listed the Jacobs Center renovation as one of the University’s key priorities. I am eager to see what Northwestern will accomplish with these exceptional scholars sharing a single space.”

The project will be home to scholars from the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), several departments within the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs and the Institute for Policy Research (IPR), as well as the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies and Weinberg College’s Program in Global Health Studies.

“I could not be more excited about the prospect of having hundreds of Weinberg College faculty and staff interacting with our undergraduate and graduate students in this vibrant new hub for social sciences and global studies,” said Adrian Randolph, dean of Weinberg College.

“Co-locating departments and programs that focus their teaching, scholarship and community engagement on social, linguistic and cultural diversity on a global scale will encourage new and dynamic collaborations,” he continued. “Proximity to the Institute for Policy Research and the School of Education and Social Policy will generate impactful work in the social sciences; and adjacency to the Buffett Institute will be transformative for our globally inflected pedagogy and research.”

Construction on the project, supported by a $10 million gift from University Trustee Steven A. Cahillane ’87 and Tracey Tappan Cahillane ’88 (’17, ’19 P), is expected to be completed in 2026. The planned renovations will transform underutilized space within the Jacobs Center and significantly enhance the surrounding grounds.

“Space and place matter to us and our work,” said SESP Dean Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy. “Social policy makes us unique. But we’re also home to economists, psychologists, teachers and many other disciplines. Occupying a single space together will give us room to grow our impact and ideas.”

The building will include classrooms, meeting and seminar rooms, labs, offices, dining areas and gathering spaces for students and faculty. There will be a new multipurpose event space that can host events of up to 150 people and opens to an outdoor terrace overlooking Deering Meadow — one of several outdoor areas planned in the new landscaping.

The renovations will not only promote faculty collaboration but also enhance opportunities for students to engage with faculty and with one another — supporting the education of the world’s future leaders.

“We're thrilled to join our colleagues in the social sciences and international area studies at the renovated Jacobs Center and look forward to the new ideas that will be sparked by proximity,” said Buffett Institute Executive Director Deborah Cohen. “As a hub for global work across Northwestern, the Buffett Institute will bring the international research and teaching happening across the University's dozen schools into the Jacobs Center.”

The location — on Sheridan Road at Foster Street in the center of the Evanston campus — provides convenient access for faculty and staff who work in the renovated building as well as those attending public events.

“IPR’s mission is to stimulate and support social science research on significant public policy issues and, importantly, to disseminate the findings widely — to students, scholars, policymakers and the public,” said IPR Director Andrew Papachristos. “For the first time, we will have a physical space dedicated to that mission.”

IPR hosts dozens of free events each year featuring lawmakers, scientists and academics — all with a goal of sparking ideas about how to shape policy to address societal issues.

The Jacobs Center was built in phases between 1972 and 2001 and most recently housed the Kellogg School of Management.