BW Breaks Ground For Thomas Family Center
While many colleges and universities have placed campus construction and renovation projects on hold because of today’s uncertain economic climate, Baldwin Wallace University is forging ahead with a dramatic expansion and renovation of its facilities for science and innovation.
"For as long as anyone can remember, Baldwin Wallace University has enjoyed an exemplary record of preparing students in the sciences for careers in research and business, medical school and graduate study," said BW President Richard Durst. But, just as study in science and technology has changed dramatically, facility and equipment needs have evolved even faster. Factor in the increasing expectations for science, technology and innovation in any plans for Ohio’s economic redevelopment and the need for "facilities that match the quality of the programs they house" becomes compelling.
BW’s ambitious plan to meet this need includes major renovations in three existing north campus buildings and the addition of new 9,000 and18,000 sq. ft. facilities to create the Thomas Family Center for Science and Innovation. The Thomas Center will feature state-of-the-art laboratories for teaching and research. Laboratories will be reconfigured in a more student-friendly format for chemistry and physics, space for neuroscience will be expanded and individual student project labs will be added in each discipline. McKelvey Auditorium will be razed and replaced with a 9,000 sq. ft., three-story addition to connect and provide access to all of the floors in Wilker and Life & Earth Science.
Also included in the project will be BW’s Center for Innovation and Growth, which focuses on economic development in Northeast Ohio and spreading entrepreneurial thinking across the campus. The physical location is intended to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborative efforts related to science, health care and innovation.
“We’re in an interesting situation here,” said Joseph Gorse, professor of chemistry. “Since the sciences are such popular majors—among the most popular for incoming students in recent years—we can’t afford to take a building off-line for an extended period. We have a plan to shuffle classrooms, laboratories and faculty offices among existing facilities while renovating and expanding others at the same time.” Demolition of four College-owned houses on Front St. in January cleared the site and placed the first piece in a 20-month puzzle leading to the $27 million project’s completion.
Between now and the beginning of fall semester, Ward Hall will be renovated to provide classrooms as well as lab and office space for the Department of Geology. At the same time, a new building will be constructed for the Center of Innovation and Growth (CIG).
“The building is intentionally designed to be a gathering place where students from all majors and faculty from all disciplines can gather to talk and collaborate on projects,” said Peter Rea, CIG director and Burton D. Morgan Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies.
A large atrium, offices, three conference rooms and five classrooms will provide students, faculty and visitors with a variety of meeting options. At the same time, crews will begin to work floor by floor to renovate Wilker Hall for the departments of chemistry and physics and the Life & Earth Science Building for biology and neuroscience.
“Our students today are doing what was considered graduate level training not too long ago,” said Gorse . “It’s not a matter of what they learn, but how they learn. Students now need hands-on experiences in producing new knowledge, rather than rediscovering pre-existing information.
“We’re training them to be inventive collaborators who can work among disciplines, where much of the innovation and information in sciences will be generated,” said Gorse, “and this new complex will be a significant addition to that process.”
The entire project is scheduled for completion by fall of 2010.