With $18 million raised, specific project details remain undecided
Augustana has raised $18 million of the $20 million goal needed for the new science building and renovations to the Gilbert Science Center (GSC), but the college’s fundraising efforts are only one part of the equation.
“This is the largest and most complex building project ever undertaken on this campus,” president Rob Oliver said.
Last fall, the announcement of the new science building was accompanied by the promise of a $20 million challenge gift from Sanford, the largest donation in the college’s history.
“When we announced this a year ago, it was a fairly simple concept, but at that point, we had no idea what we were going to build yet,” Oliver said, regarding the details of the new facility. “Sanford is still going to be a major donor and will match many of the gifts that we’ve received, but the original plan is not necessarily the same as it was when we started. And that’s pretty normal that that will happen.”
Despite any changes since the project’s first iteration, the college still plans to reach the $20 million fundraising goal this spring.
“We remain fluid,” said Karen Younger, chair of the natural science division. “We have leadership that’s comfortable with ambiguity. That’s a strength for us.”
According to Younger, the college still plans to break ground in the spring of 2014 and have students in renovated or new space by the fall of 2015.
While most of the fundraising and planning has taken place since the announcement of the project a year ago, talk of a new science building has been in the school’s plan for about six years now, according to Oliver.
“The space we have now has gotten to the point where it’s limiting the scope of the programs,” junior biochemistry major Ethan Pauley said. “We are desperately in need of the new space.”
Since the announcement of the new facility, a building that will be named in honor of former Augustana biology professor Dr. Sven Froiland, faculty and administration members have been planning the project’s details.
“We hope to have a more technologically savvy environment so that we can use technology in instruction in a more robust way,” Younger said.
Younger, who leads the program steering committee made up of department chairs and other science faculty, also said that the new building is designed to showcase the work of students by being more open and transparent.
“It will mean that we can function in the 21st century,” nursing chair Janet Philipp said.
The program steering committee began meeting with the architect last spring, and they have continued to work to determine the needs of the science department and the goals of the project.
According to Younger, goals of the committee include a commitment to serving all Augustana students well, to enhance the visibility of Augustana, to develop new programming and to encourage collaboration between departments. The commitment to collaboration includes determining which departments will best work together between the GSC and the proposed facility.
“To try and find the right combination when you have space needs is a challenge,” Younger said. “It feels nice to leave the lab sciences together, but that might not be possible with the constraints we have.”
No final decisions have been made regarding what departments will move to the new building, but none of the scenarios being discussed will allow the biology and chemistry departments to work in the same building, according to chemistry chair Barry Eichler.
“That’s the hardest decision we’ve had to make up until now,” Eichler said.
Eichler noted that another result of the new facility could be a projected 20 percent increase in enrollment. Pauley, who works as an admission ambassador, agrees that prospective students will respond to newer facilities.
“When you’re trying to pull in prospective students, you want everything to look new and shiny and scientific,” Pauley said. “It really doesn’t anymore.”
As decisions continue to be made regarding the layout and design of the new facility, the program steering committee and the administration will work with the future of Augustana in mind.
“The decisions that we’re making last a long time,” Oliver said. “They will impact the lives of thousands of students.”
Ultimately, the project faces the challenge of balancing the wants and needs of the science departments with the budget limitations, according to Oliver.
“We’ve defined our dreams,” he said. “Now we’re trying to create the reality.”