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"You can build small spaces in big schools where people can make these connections — that is something we are absolutely committed to"
~ Brint Milward, director of the School of Government and Public Policy
Above: Melody Robidoux with Brint Milward. Robidoux's gift will transform an old classroom in the School of Government and Public Policy into a space equipped to build minds and community. Photo by Lori Harwood.
More than Just a Classroom
The Robidoux Give Creates Space for Community
Black boards with a white chalky film. Beige floors, beige walls and beige ceilings. A metal A/V cart with a wobbly wheel.
While such classrooms may bring with them a tiny wave of nostalgia, they are hardly conducive to 21st century learning standards. Enter Melody Robidoux and her Foundation.
Robidoux’s generous gift will allow for an entire refit of Social Sciences room 311 — a mid-sized classroom with big dreams. In its second life, it will have videoconferencing, SMART boards and multimedia equipment. More importantly, it will be a welcoming space flexible enough to hold lectures, as well as receptions.
But the transformation that Robidoux is interested in is not technology based. It’s turning a nondescript space into a place where community can grow — a place where clubs can form, lectures on civic responsibility can be held, and high school students can get their first taste of higher learning.
“What we want to do is engage students in more than just going to class,” said Robidoux. “We want to create a gathering place where there could be discussions on civics and politics and good government."
Robidoux’s interest in politics is long-standing. The first person in her family to go to college, Robidoux graduated from the UA with a degree in political science and a minor in history. (She wrote her honor’s thesis on Reagan’s run for a second term.) She went on to get her law degree from the UA.
Her career took a left turn, and she ended up working in technology, eventually selling her shares of Artisoft to venture capitalists. With this money, she stared a Foundation, so she could immediately begin to work on public policy. Her passions: women’s issues, children’s issues, social justice, politics and education.
Melody and the Robidoux Foundation have a history of giving to the UA and the community. Robidoux cofounded the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona. She made a gift to the capital building campaign of the James E. Rogers College of Law and chose to have a high-tech seminar room named in the Foundation’s honor. The Foundation funded Junior State of America’s expansion into Arizona, a program that fosters civic engagement for high school students. In addition, Robidoux created a history scholarship because of the impact retired Professor Richard Cosgrove had on her when she was a student.
One of Robidoux’s regrets from her UA days is that she never really felt connected to a group. The size of the institution was a hindrance to finding like-minded friends. She’s hoping the Melody S. Robidoux Civic Engagement Room will be a step in the right direction.
“You can build small spaces in big schools where people can make these connections — that is something we are absolutely committed to,” said Brint Milward, director of the School of Government and Public Policy. “We are so thankful that Melody’s generous gift has given us the means to do it.”