Science building begins first phase of construction

By: Mary-Ellen Davis, Staff Writer

Photo by Mary-Ellen Davis/ The Towerlight

The first steps towards beginning construction on the new science facility took place Nov. 1, when a fence was put up along the segment of York Road between the 7800 York Rd. building and Stephens Hall where the new science facility will be located.

This is one part of the perimeter of the construction site. The rest of the fence is expected to be up by Nov. 15, according to Scott Guckert, director of construction services.

The facility is expected to be 320,000 square feet upon completion, and will house 50 teaching laboratories, 30 research laboratories and 50 classrooms, as well as multiple student lounges and collaborative spaces, lecture halls and an outdoor classroom which will lead into the Glen Arboretum.

According to David Vanko, dean of the Jess and Mildred College of Science and Mathematics, there will also be a new planetarium, observatory and rooftop greenhouse.

Vanko stressed the importance of having modern facilities for science studies.

“It’s important for the sciences, especially the lab sciences, to have modern facilities,” Vanko said. “[Smith Hall] was built in 1965, and it was built for a teacher’s college where they didn’t really do science; they taught it. They helped people who were going to be teachers learn to teach science, but they didn’t actually do any research.”

Vanko said Smith Hall is inadequate in providing the proper means to conduct modern scientific research.

“This building is just completely incapable of supporting modern research activities the way they should be supported, and supporting modern science activities the way they should be taught,” he said. “So we’ll have classrooms, modern instructional labs, and we’ll be able to do a lot more hands-on, what we call ‘authentic research’ in the laboratory classroom.”

Vanko also pointed out that the new building will allow the science departments to be physically closer to the mathematics department, which are also part of the College.

The departments in the Jess and Mildred College of Science and Mathematics will not be the only ones on campus to benefit from the addition of the science facility, as some departments in the College of Fine Arts and Communication are set to relocate to Smith Hall once the new building has been completed.

“Both the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies, and the Department of Electronic Media and Film are slated to move to Smith once the new science building opens,Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication Susan Picinich said in an email.

According to Picinich, the Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies, and the Department of Electronic Media and Film are currently housed in three separate buildings: the Media Center, Van Bokkelen and Stephens Annex.

Picinich noted the importance of the College of Fine Arts and Communication Studies to have proper learning facilities as well.

“It is important for them to have classrooms, labs and other learning spaces, such as the TV studio and film screening cinema, that are large enough to accommodate a growing student body as well as up-to-date in technology,” she said.

Students from both colleges are excited for the new building to open, as it could increase opportunities for them.

Environmental science major Mak Sisson said that she’s excited for the new science building to be completed, as it means better facilities for equipment.

“It’ll be better for the technology we want to use,” Sisson said. “I know that some of our machines just won’t work because it’s so old, so just kind of updating the science department is a really good step.”

Ali Maxwell, a public relations major in the mass communication and communication studies department, is ready to move into Smith Hall after the sciences relocate.

“The mass communication department is kind of awkward because I have two different main buildings I have to go to,” she said. “And I’d rather have a central area so that I know where the department head is, and where my teachers are, and my teacher’s offices aren’t spread out around campus. I guess film, they also need a little bit of updating as well, but I’d like to have us all in one place, [communication studies and mass communication] together.”

The expected completion date for the new science facility is currently set for the fall of 2020.

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