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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

Science Center plans move forward

By Jennifer Hawks
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 24, 2004

St. Olaf students and alumni can still look forward to seeing a new building grace campus grounds. Last spring, plans for a new science center were announced. Now, the vision of a group of science and math faculty is becoming reality as the college continues its fundraising campaign.

The complex will cost a projected $77 million to build and maintain. The building itself is estimated to cost just over $56 million with an endowment of $20 million to provide for the buildings upkeep.

The college must raise 40 percent of the total funds to continue the design process and 80 percent to break ground.

The thought of a new science center is "tremendously exciting," said Dave Van Wylen, design team leader and associate dean for natural sciences and mathematics.

The current science center, built in 1967 for less than 2,000 students, lacks the space for todays student body of 3,000.

The building is running out of room for new technology and adequate learning and research settings for students. The five departments of the faculty of natural sciences and mathematics are spread across three buildings, which makes interdisciplinary teaching and learning difficult. In the current science center, lab tables and the chairs in lecture rooms are fixed to the floor, which discourages teamwork and interactive learning.

The new building will have a welcoming, versatile atmosphere where students and faculty can easily interact and work to foster connections between departments and disciplines.

Members of the administration, faculty and staff are working together with a design team from Holabird & Root Architects to create a complex that is flexible enough to accommodate whatever direction science takes in years to come.

Dean and Provost James May anticipates the new building will last a long time.

"It will have benefits for many generations of St. Olaf students," May said.

The approved plan calls for a new building on the site where Flaten Hall is currently located. The Old Music Hall, the science library and the math wing of the current Science Center will also be renovated and connected via an underground passageway to the new building.

The new science center will change the look of campus. "The new building will affect it dramatically," Professor of chemistry Gary Spessard said.

Its location is intended to bring more activity to the east side of campus, helping to build community and improve campus life, similar to Buntrock Commons.

The building will also be a green, environmentally friendly building, made of renewable resources whenever possible.

For instance, carpet and paint will be made of polymeric material from corn and soy beans and the electricity generated from the new campus windmill may be used to power the building.

The W.M. Keck Foundation awarded St. Olaf a $500,000 grant to develop this ground-breaking approach to chemistry.

By minimizing the effect of chemical processes on the environment, overall costs and wastes are significantly reduced. In the fall of 2003, a pilot green chemistry program was implemented by the St. Olaf chemistry department.

Spessard, along with about 30 students, created a program where students used water-based and non-toxic chemicals to perform chemical transformations parallel to those created using the traditional approach. Their more efficient process generated less waste and significant reduced that need for the large, costly fume hoods, which limit exposure to hazardous fumes associated with traditional chemical experiments.

Even though students who attend St. Olaf right now wont be able to use the facility, many faculty feel it is something graduates will be proud of.

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