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ISSUE 116 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/13/2002

Proposed Science Center promises upgrades

By Annie Rzepecki
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 13, 2002

Preliminary plans are underway for the development of a new Science Center that will accommodate up-to-date science education and research.

Pete Sandberg, Director of Facilities, claims that the “spaces aren’t there” for adequate research. Professor David Van Wylen, Associate Dean for the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, added that the current Science Center “wasn’t built to accommodate large numbers of students doing research. We’re squeezing student research into spaces for one or two people.”

Dean of Students Greg Kneser reiterated the need for improving science and math facilities. “This is one area that every student will pass through, because the GE curriculum has everyone taking two science courses…everyone will benefit from this effort.”

“Science is happening real different than in 1966 and 1967,” Sandberg noted. The Science Center was built in 1968.

Because the Science Center was built almost 35 years ago, structural issues are another reason for renovation and the potential creation of a whole new science building. Dr. Anne Walter, Professor of Biology, explained that “the new standards for air handling and safety require more air flow than can easily be handled in the present building.”

Due to the size and structure of the current Science Center, very preliminary plans have been drawn for building a brand new “Science Complex.”

Sandberg explained that the new building, roughly 150,000 square feet, would stand where Flaten Hall is now. The Old Music building and part of the current Science Center would house math and science classes. The rest of the Science Center would be the new Administration and student services building.

“The needs for ventilating a science facility are very different than ventilation for offices,” VanWylen said. “It would be a major undertaking to renovate this building for science.”

Sandberg said that this planning "has been going on for years and years." Several other options were explored, but Sandberg believes that “the best overall thing for the college is to develop a new building” for science and math facilities.

Sandberg said that the planning addresses and takes into consideration the needs of all other departments. The projected plan includes renovating the current Administration Building to make it part of the Fine Arts facilities.

Commenting on the potential renovation to the Science Center, Van Wylen said that “anyone who has seen what has been done to Dittman can appreciate what renovation can do to a building.”

The new Science Complex also would allow the Psychology department to be in the same building as the other natural sciences and mathematics. Van Wylen says this adds impetus for a new building. It will “bring people together,” he said.

Another aspect of the new Science Complex is the building of a walkway between the new building and Old Music Hall, similar to the walkway that connects Buntrock to the chapel.

The projected timeline for the project is rough, but Sandberg and Van Wylen expect the new facility to be completed in 2008. Sandberg hopes to start fundraising for the project right away. He estimates that the fundraising will take three years.

Sandberg also assures that students will have much input in the planning process. The Student Government has already been involved in planning, and there will be open forums for students to voice their ideas and concerns.

Kneser reiterated the fact that St. Olaf has “made significant steps in the past few years to upgrade facilities and give students the best learning environment possible.” He cited Buntrock, Dittman and Tostrud as examples.

“Science facilities clearly are the top priority this time, and we need to move now to create excellent teaching, research and study space for students," he said.

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