What’s next for the new WCU science building

This article was co-written with Haley Smith

The Connect N.C. Bond was passed, WCU will get the funds for a new Natural Sciences building and the work has already started. An ad has been placed seeking designers for the new building. The application process will close April 15. After that, a committee will be constructed to shortlist the 50 or more designers that are expected to apply and interview potential candidates.

“This building will allow us to rethink how we are teaching,” said Starnes. “If we do it right, this will change how we teach, the approaches we take to teaching and the experiences we give our students.”

Many students and professors are excited about the new building.

According to the Dean of WCU’s Arts and Sciences, Dr. Richard Starnes, the design process will take about a year and will be open to input from students and professors. Once this is completed, the Board of Trustees and the UNC system will have to approve the design, and a request for a bid for construction will occur.

Starnes said that they are hoping to begin construction of the new building in early 2018.

“It should be done, we hope, by 2020,” Starnes wrote in an e-mail message.

The new building will have a focus on new teaching spaces, lab spaces, and spaces for interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as new equipment for science classes.

A workshop was held on March 29 to discuss the planning process for the new Natural Sciences building. About 25 people attended the workshop, including faculty, professors and department heads of math and science disciplines. Jeanne Narum led the discussion offering her insights on the project.

Jeanne Narum is a founding principal of the Learning Spaces Collaboratory, which offers insights and helps plan ‘21st century learning spaces.’

An e-mail from Dr. David Kinner, the associate dean of the College of Arts and sciences, described the workshop as “a discussion of national trends shaping STEM learning and research and thus influencing the planning of STEM spaces in the undergraduate setting.”

Colleagues in science and math disciplines discussed tentative plans for the new Natural Sciences building. Photo by Haley Smith

Colleagues in science and math disciplines discussed tentative plans for the new Natural Sciences building. Photo by Haley Smith

Several professors and department heads spoke about their experiences touring science buildings at other universities and shared their ideas.

The department head of Chemistry and Physics, David Evanoff, visited Middle Tennessee State University’s new science building in search of ideas.

“Something that’s important is that we allow students to practice being a practitioner,” said Evanoff.

Evanoff mentioned that MTSU used a lot of glass walls in the construction of their science building to create “informal learning spaces” and give students the chance to see “what it means to be a biologist or a chemist.”

Bill Kwochka, the associate department head of chemistry and physics, visited the University of Kentucky and also WCU’s Health and Human Sciences building.

“The new building needs to be comfortable,” said Kwochka.” It has to be an inviting space. Students and faculty have to want to be there. I think if they want to be there, then a lot of great things are going to happen.”

Discussions will be conducted with students, professors and department heads in the 16 to 18 months before design development.

Forums similar to this one will be occurring throughout the next few months in order to gain insights from WCU community, including students, informed Starnes.


Feature photo was taken from: http://robesonian.com/news/85434/north-carolina-oks-borrowing-2-billion-for-infrastructure