In the newly named Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium, a large crowd celebrated Middle Tennessee State University's new Science Building -- a crown jewel considered the catalyst to the future in scientific endeavors.
About 300 people joined Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and university President Sidney A. McPhee Wednesday (Oct. 15) in christening the 257,000-gross-square-foot Science Building on the south side of campus.
The $147 million facility will thrust the MTSU scientific community into fast-forward in terms of research, collaboration and individual exploration. Six teaching lecture halls, 13 research laboratories and 36 teaching laboratories are just the start of the features for the building, which opened more than five months early. To learn more, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/sciencebuilding/.
Haslam, who attended the May 3, 2012, groundbreaking ceremony, led the collection of guest speakers, who also included Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan, state Sen. Bill Ketron, and respective faculty and student representatives Tammy Melton and Kenneth Ball.
"By 2025, at least 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree beyond high school to find a job," Haslam said. "Attracting and growing jobs in Tennessee is directly tied to education, and if we are not prepared to fill those jobs of the future, they will go somewhere else."
"Graduates with STEM degrees are important to our state's ability to thrive, and the additional space to train these students -- provided by this building -- will help us compete in today's global economy," he added.
Haslam challenged MTSU to produce highly educated, STEM-trained graduates to continue to attract high-tech jobs for the Midstate workforce.
After thanking many people and those in both the public and private sector, McPhee told the audience the building was just an abstract concept -- or, better yet, a hope and a dream -- especially after an economic jolt in the form of a recession delayed the state's number one capital project in higher education nearly five years.
He praised the governor as well as key legislative leaders, local state lawmakers and local elected officials "who advocated our need in every corner of the Capitol until they were heard."
Speaking on behalf of the local legislative delegation as its senior member, Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, recalled the political wrangling needed to move the project forward, saying, "We weren't going to let any other (building) project get on top of the pipeline." He said there are opportunities for MTSU agriculture in the world-class facility.
McPhee told the audience the Science Building "is critical to our continuing efforts to provide Tennessee with workers equipped for the challenges of the 21st century workforce, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math areas."
Eighty percent of the MTSU student population will take classes in the building, which opened more than five months ahead of schedule, in time for the Aug. 25 first day of classes.
"Our new Science Building provides a place of inspiration," McPhee said. "When you walk the halls of this building ... you will note the glass walls in each of the laboratories ... where you can see for yourself the students and faculty collaborating on projects and conducting cutting-edge research."
Faculty member Tammy Melton, who came to MTSU in 1999, offered words of praise and thanks to faculty who both preceded her and joined her in the effort to secure the Science Building.
Some faculty will be able to "pursue cutting-edge research because now there is the necessary equipment and the blessed space," she added. "Our students will be fully equipped to compete with any other students in the country for jobs in the sciences, for placement in professional schools and for acceptance into graduate programs in the United States and abroad."
"The building is a magnet," Melton said in conclusion. "In the recruitment of new students and new faculty, we no longer need to apologize for existing poor facilities and offer promises of future construction. In 2014, the 21st century has come to MTSU chemistry and biology. The future is here. Now."
Kenneth Ball, a senior general science major from Savannah, Tennessee, wanted to thank any and everyone who had a hand in the entire project.
"When I stepped in the door (Aug. 25), I was blown away," said Ball, who gave a brief summary of how things were in Wiser-Patten Science Hall when he attended classes in 2011. "It was crowded in the Chem I lab (in Wiser-Patten) and there was no place to study."
"This is the best-equipped building," he said, referring to the Science Building. "It's no longer crowded and there are places to study. It's all directed at us -- the students. I don't think they could've made it any better."
- Grounded in MTSU's rich tradition of teacher training, the new MTSU Science Building makes full use of technology and contemporary research in teaching cognitive science. The entire facility features pedagogical design attributes nationally recognized as Project Kaleidoscope Initiatives, including discovery-based, group learning environments and spaces for informal discussion and collaborative interaction, all promoting an enhanced, 21st-century science education and research continuum.
- Nearly all of MTSU's 26,000-plus students will benefit from the improved science facilities. During fall 2010, more than 13,200 students, both majors and non-majors, were enrolled in biology, chemistry and physical science courses. Biology is a general-education requirement at MTSU, and science courses produce about 60,000 credit hours annually at the university.
- Science courses offered in the new building serve academic programs beyond general education, biology and chemistry. Those additional programs include aerospace, agribusiness/agriscience, engineering technology, nursing, physics and astronomy, elementary education, teacher licensure in science education, wellness and exercise science in health and human performance, human sciences nutrition/food science/dietetics, geology, social work, and recording-industry production technology.
- During the academic year 2009-10, MTSU granted almost 700 degrees in biology, chemistry and related fields. The university estimates that number could increase by 25 percent after the new Science Building is in operation.
- Construction of the new Science Building began immediately after the May 3, 2012, groundbreaking, and the facility beat its scheduled spring 2015 opening date by a semester.
The new Science Building will:
- enable the university to address needs identified in the America Competes Act by creating additional science graduates to fill high-technology jobs and teach science and math in K-12 schools;
- enhance middle Tennessee's regional economy by providing technical entrepreneurs and researchers who launch small businesses through ideas and research;
- make MTSU and the state more competitive for federal grants and contracts in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and
- support greater collaboration with Oak Ridge National Labs through MTSU's new science doctoral programs.