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Michigan State breaks ground on new STEM facility

September 4, 2018

The last time MSU built a classroom from the ground up and with state funding was in 1969, when Wells Hall was built. A new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Teaching and Learning Facility, which broke ground on Aug. 31, will be the first constructed building with classrooms on campus to receive state funding in nearly 50 years.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new STEM building at MSU took place on Friday at the old Shaw Lane Power Plant.

The ceremony included different speakers from different backgrounds, such as Interim President John Engler and current STEM students.

“I can also imagine that it wouldn't just be convenient to have all the labs in one place, but also to have a space or they have to be able to meet with well-minded students who are also equally interested in translational research and have questions about what they study and to have just a room to be able to bring in some of these ideas and come up with important research questions to address some of our needs,” William Yakah, a senior international student studying neuroscience, said.

The STEM building is 117,000 square feet and will be completed in the fall of 2020, a university press release said. 

The central structure of the facility will be the former Shaw Lane Power Plant and the renovations will "keep as much of the old building as possible to provide student studio space and a vibrant commons area with a café, as well as a new home for MSU's HUB for Innovation in Learning and Technology," according to the release.

“Everybody's gonna know about this building," Interim President John Engler said."When they see it, they certainly will want to experience the space and the importance of what we taught here probably has never been more important in terms of the country."

During Engler’s presentation, he pointed out the importance of studying STEM-related fields. 

“There was a 2016 Department of Education report that said the learning and the doing of STEM helps to prepare students for a workforce for success,” he said. “Results not just from what one knows, but what one is able to do with that knowledge. And, uh, there's no question Michigan State's always been about that.”

The Michigan Legislature provided $29.9 million to the total estimated project cost of $72.5 million, according to the university press release. 

“As a legislator, I know the importance of investing in our future,” Senator Darwin Booher said. “Even during our leanest budget years, I was supportive of funding projects through all our higher education facilities because I could clearly see the impact they would have in the current and the future workforce."

“State investment in our university facilities is crucial to our future success. This project was presented to my committee and clearly demonstrated the needed investment in the STEM field for our future."

According to the press release, the building "will house 21st-century classrooms and laboratory spaces that will support gateway courses for biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, physics and engineering."

Lynmarie Posey, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry who has been involved in the transformation efforts in general chemistry lectures and laboratory curriculums, said she has also been involved in the planning of the new space for general chemistry labs. 

“We are doing the labs in space that was not designed to do the kind of group interaction that we have in these labs,” she said. “And now this space, purpose-built, ... will really allow students to actively collaborate with each other in solving chemistry problems.”

John Forsyth, an alumnus and a retired engineering professor at MSU, attended the ceremony. He said he thinks the project is wonderful. 

“I don't know how it's going to affect MSU in the future,” he said. “I think it's a very daring kind of a development to put in and make something that's so much different from what's been on campus in the past."

He said he hopes students meet and work with lifelong friends and colleagues.

The planning for the STEM facility also received cross-disciplinary representation from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the College of Engineering, Lyman Briggs College and more, according to the release. 

“One of the wonderful things, if you've been at this place very long, you learn after 166 years, is that every generation is just a steward of this place,” June Pierce Youatt, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “And if you have the chance, if you have the privilege, you get to for a few years, handle the legacy of those who come before you and hand it to the next generation.”

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