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ISSUE 117 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/3/2003

New science center plans in motion, awaits funds

By Kelly Christensen
Copy Editor

Friday, October 3, 2003

Construction of the new Science Complex should begin spring 2006 on the Flaten Hall site if funding and design processes go smoothly.

According to Director of Facilities Pete Sandberg, the schematic design for the building will be completed after the St. Olaf Advancement Division can secure funding from alumni, friends of the college, and corporate foundations. Costs include approximately $56 million dollars for the building and $21.2 million dollars for an operations endowment to pay for continuous costs such as electricity and maintenance.

Sandberg says it may take up to 18 months until construction drawings are ready. Inadequate space for the growing student body and quickly increasing number of research and teaching facilities prompted the Board of Regents' building approval in 1999. President Thomforde brought the issue out of its two-year hibernation in spring 2002, asking the science departments for fiscal and site planning recommendations. By fall 2002, construction plans were underway.

Biology Professor Dave Van Wylen said that one of the main reasons for a new building is that teaching methods have evolved since the Science Center opened in 1968. The increasing emphasis on team work and experiential investigation in lab work requires a greater flexibility of space than the Science Center currently offers.

"Most classrooms and laboratories in the Science Center have fixed seating and benches, which was fine for non-interactive lectures and non-investigative labs. However, we teach in a much more interactive fashion these days," said Van Wylen.

The science complex will accommodate the trend toward interdisciplinary research and teaching. Lab and classrooms will become more adaptable to fit changing instruction needs, and there will be considerably more space for undergraduate research.

"This should be a more integrative approach, not divided so much by discipline. Right now we have the biology floor, the math floor, the chemistry floor. But in the new building, we want to be able to have geneticists working alongside statisticians. We want to have it more functionally based rather than strictly by discipline," Sandberg said.

The class of 2007, the first to use the complex, will benefit from advancements in technology, safety, and energy efficiency.

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