A proposed Science Learning Center to be built on UGA’s South Campus is one of two major capital construction projects approved Sept. 11 by the board of regents for submission to the governor as part of the fiscal year 2015 budget request.
The $44.7 million requested for design and construction of the approximately 122,500 square foot facility would provide modern, efficient and flexible space for undergraduate laboratory teaching in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math). Once completed, the project would be supplemented by $10 million in institutional funds to begin a program to modernize space where such courses are taught now in the 1960s-era chemistry and biological sciences buildings, with much of that space being repurposed to support faculty research.
“The Science Learning Center is the top priority I submitted to the regents this year as president, and I am most pleased and grateful that the chancellor and board are supporting it,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This will place the university at the forefront of offering students the very best facilities in science education and will advance the governor’s goal of expanding the pipeline for students in the STEM disciplines.”
Core undergraduate science lab courses at UGA have been operating above capacity, particularly in core chemistry and biology, and are taught in outdated facilities that are difficult to maintain. The chemistry building was constructed in 1960, with additions in 1971 and 1997. The biological sciences building also was built in 1960, with an addition in 1972.
The Science Learning Center would add 33 modern teaching labs to accommodate four departments-chemistry, biological sciences, plant biology and physics. According to the university’s submission to the regents, the center would effectively address the deficit of modern teaching laboratory space and ensure lab course availability through 2026 based on current enrollment trends.
The regents’ budget submission also included on its small capital projects list (those under $5 million) a proposed $4.9 million expansion and renovation of Baldwin Hall, built in 1938 and now home of the School of Public and International Affairs. The 10,800 square foot addition would provide three new classrooms and additional offices for graduate students, while providing long-needed access for persons with disabilities to the upper floors of the existing 80,700 square foot building, which would undergo renovation including paint, flooring and lighting upgrades.