The Wisconsin Building Commission approved a $75 million budget request for a new science building at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) Thursday, March 21.
The building will be four floors and just under 170,000 square feet. It will contain up-to-date educational and research facilities for biology and chemistry. Construction is projected to start in 2015, with completion in 2017.
“Flexible room configurations combined with modern technology will support hands-on learning and student research, hallmarks of a UWSP education,” said Greg Diemer, the vice chancellor of business affairs, in a statement.
The building will improve science education and help keep UWSP as a statewide leader in science education, said Chris Cirmo, the dean of the College of Letters and Sciences.
“We have one of the biggest and best biology programs in the upper Midwest, and our goal is to allow our students to see science, feel science and experience science in all of its current technological splendor,” said Cirmo.
According to a science center study published by UWSP, nearly 50 percent of all majors at UWSP are allied health, the sciences or natural resources, and 80 percent of all students will take chemistry or biology classes as part of their curriculum or general education requirements. From 2001 to 2010, life science was the No. 1 discipline in which research doctorates were earned.
Cirmo said that a more diversified clientele of students from across the spectrum of needs of the state and region will benefit from the new science building, not just chemistry and biology majors.
“This is part of our Healthy Communities Initiative, where we plan to be the institution of choice for students from rural, Hmong, Native American, inner city and other underrepresented populations in the state, as well as address the current needs of our non-biology/chemistry majors in the rapidly expanding area of health-care careers and the pre-professional tracks,” Cirmo said.
The goal of this initiative is to have these students start their training and education at UWSP, advise them and help them along, and convince them that returning to their hometowns to practice is a viable career choice, Cirmo said.
According to Diemer’s statement, the building will be constructed with an energy-conserving design and a goal of earning a LEED Gold rating.
Cirmo said the LEED Gold rating is part of the campus Sustainability Initiative and makes the new building even more cutting-edge.
“It costs a bit more up front, but as in all strategic decisions, more than pays for itself in energy savings over the life of the building,” Cirmo said. “And at the end of the day of course, it is the right thing to do and sends the right message to our students, their parents, and our community and region.”
The environmentally-friendly design will be extended to a “science-on-display” facility where parents, prospective students, legislators and benefactors can see science in the labs and classrooms as it is actually happening, said Cirmo.
Moving biology and chemistry to a new building frees significant space in two existing buildings to meet academic needs, he said.
The science building will be located at the current site of Parking Lot X, where Stanley Street meets with Fremont, across from Ministry St. Michael’s Hospital.
“This is strategic in that it is a major entrance to the campus, and is in close proximity to the Hospital, where many students have interests in the Healthy Communities Initiative,” Cirmo said.
According to Cirmo, the present science building will continue to house the departments of psychology, computing and new media technologies, geography/geology, mathematical sciences and physics/astronomy. It also houses the labs for the clinical lab sciences major and the health science areas.
“All of these areas are in a growth mode, and the building will eventually be renovated to state of the art standards and may also house some of our specialty centers,” Cirmo said. “It will certainly continue with its famous programs with the Planetarium and Observatory.”
UWSP is in the process of gathering support from stakeholders and major benefactors to consider the official name of the building, Cirmo said.
Cirmo said UWSP is also attempting to find money to support a state-of-the-art nanotechnology “clean room” which would put the university in a world-class status regarding the new technology and its possible applications in almost all aspects of human activity.
“We have the faculty expertise, and this facility would allow us to draw new kinds of students, technology projects, and cutting edge research dollars to UWSP,” he said.
Cirmo said the bids for the architectural firms will not go out until the building project is approved and signed into law by the governor as part of the 2013-15 biennial budget.
To fund the project, the budget must be moved to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee review in May, said Diemer in the statement. After their anticipated action, the Legislature will consider the request as part of the state budget in June. The budget must be signed by the governor.
“The Governor has given a very positive review of this project in terms of how it and other UW-System proposals really address the deferred maintenance which must be dealt with to keep UW system competitive,” Cirmo said. “We have been encouraged by the far-sighted support of these UW-System projects by the governor’s office, by the Division of State Facilities and by the Full Building Commission.”
The new science building at UWSP is in the early planning stages, but this pre-design shows the location of the building and the focus on green space and environmental sustainability.