Davidson College announced today that it has received the largest gift in its history: A $45 million grant from the Duke Endowment to help kick off an ambitious 10-year plan to transform the heart of the campus.

The project will involve the construction, expansion or renovation of six buildings over the next decade, as part of an effort by the school to create a new model of liberal arts education.

The changes will produce a neighborhood with flexible spaces and common areas, including a cafe, artists studios and learning labs. The approach will also increase the school s ability to collaborate with outside businesses, organizations and universities, officials said.

The project comes at a time when small liberal arts colleges like Davidson with 2,000 students are facing increased competition from online competitors who can offer students a chance to get degrees less expensively.

A new 120,000-square-foot science building will be the first of the changes to take shape, followed by renovation of the existing 27,000-square-foot science building. The new building will be constructed on an empty lot east of the current science building.

Davidson College President Carol Quillen said the work is needed to help graduates compete in a rapidly changing world.

To stay ahead of these changes, we need to shift how we work, both physically and intellectually, Quillen said in a statement. The Duke Endowment understands the opportunities that our changing world offers, and we cannot thank the trustees enough for endorsing Davidson s vision.

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