SUU Secures Funding for Gibson Science CenterMarch 16, 2009
Southern Utah University has cause to celebrate with the closing of the 2009 legislative session. Beyond the good news of lower budget cuts for higher education than had originally been anticipated, the University’s plans for a new science building can now move forward, thanks to capital facilities bonding in the amount of $13.9 million.
The Gibson Science Center, to be named after SUU alum Walter Maxwell Gibson, a 1951 graduate of the former Branch Agricultural College, will provide the requisite space and technology to accommodate SUU’s rapidly growing College of Science. The new facilities will replace the 32-year old, 9,491 square foot Life Science Building with a 42,385 square foot addition to the University’s Science Center. The addition will include 23 labs, three classrooms, two animal care rooms, one greenhouse, 34 offices and one museum.
In addition to the $13.9 million, the legislature also granted SUU $341,000 in ongoing operations and maintenance funding for the new science center.
With plans for the new addition to house the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Nursing, the four-story addition will bring all but one of the departments within SUU’s College of Science together under one roof.
According to Robert Eves, interim dean of the College, “The emphasis of this addition is to provide much-needed teaching and directed undergraduate research space.”
Eves expounds, “We are approaching gridlock in lab scheduling, with labs scheduled in the early morning hours and late into the evening. The additional space will allow us to provide more labs at peak demand times. Of particular importance to our continued success in student placement within post-bachelor degree programs, is the additional space to conduct undergraduate research. Along with the additional space will come specialized equipment with which we can move this important component in undergraduate science education forward.”
Considering SUU student enrollment continues to rise at one of the highest rates in the state, and that one in every five SUU students pursues a major within the College of Science, the state funding solves a pressing need to accommodate a large number of SUU’s students.
Of the Gibson Science Center’s anticipated impact, SUU President Michael Benson states, “That we were able to secure state support for our new science center in difficult economic circumstances means a great deal to this campus and to our community. Beyond greatly enhancing the College of Science facilities for our students, faculty and staff, this new structure is a nearly $20 million project which will bring an economic infusion into Iron County at a critical time.”
Dean Eves also foresees that “The additional space provided in the proposed science building will provide an opportunity for the College of Science to meet new objectives, generate new funding opportunities, and become even more involved in the university and surrounding communities."
Benson continues, “SUU continues to move forward with improvements to our infrastructure. This legislative appropriation signifies nearly $30 million in two years, both in the form of state support and revenue bonds, for two critical needs: a new housing complex and the completion of the Gibson Science Center.”
In addition to the legislative funding, Benson says the University is “deeply indebted to Dr. Walter Gibson and his family for their generous support and their commitment to this project.” Gibson donated $3 million toward the project.
If all goes according to schedule, according to Benson, the initial construction timeline has the University razing the current Life Science Building this July, with excavation and structural work to begin shortly thereafter. This timeline is contingent upon permission from the DFCM to commence the design/build process immediately. If secured, the University hopes to have the new facility completed by July of 2010.
The new addition will closely mirror the current footprint of the soon-to-be-razed Life Science Building, expanding upwards rather than out. The footprint has been designed to maximize green space preservation.