by Geoff Larcom, Published October 30, 2012
YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University celebrated a milestone in science education at its campus on Oct. 30, marking the completion of renovations in Phase II of the Science Complex.
More than 100 people attended the celebration, including Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn), the longest serving member in the House of Representatives; State Rep. David Rutledge, whose 54th District includes Ypsilanti; members of the EMU Board of Regents, President Susan Martin, donors, faculty, administrators and students.
The group marked the special occasion in room 158 of the Science Complex, one of a variety of lecture halls that received technological and infrastructure improvements in the $90 million, self-funded project. The group first saw a video where professors noted the benefits to students of the broad improvements.
Dingell cited the "passion, optimism, energy and enthusiasm" he sees in the faculty, administrators and students when he visits Eastern. He said the Science Complex contributes "to the growth and future of this country," noting that students such as those who attend EMU are "25 percent of our population but 100 percent of our future."
Roy Wilbanks, chair of the EMU Board of Regents and a former top administrator at Eastern, noted the key role of the board to direct and control the expenses of the University. The Science Complex, he said, resulted from a crucial decision in 2005 to set aside money for strategic capital improvements that help students.
"We put a great deal of effort into infrastructure," he said of the board.
President Martin noted how the Science Complex was "done on time and budget," and praised the cooperation of faculty and staff, many of whom played a key role in the renovation of the building.
"This is a beautiful, collaborative project," she said. "It was challenging at times. But look at what we've done together."
Rutledge praised EMU's vision in funding the Science Complex, adding, "I could not be more proud of you. I hold (EMU) up as a shining example, a reminder that it's always about the students."
Concluding the remarks was Danielle St. Germaine, an EMU masters student in chemistry who earned a B.S. in biochemistry and toxicology in 2011.
She recalled the cramped space and outdated equipment in the building prior to the renovations. The new research facilities are beautiful, and there is "so much space," she said.
But she said it wasn't the facilities that continued to draw her to EMU, rather, it's the dedication to learning and the one-on-one exposure students get with faculty.
"(This facility) now reflects the caliber of education we get from faculty and staff here," St. Germaine said.
The Science Complex Phase II renovation project started on December 20, 2010, and was completed on August 31, 2012 as the building completely reopened to students for the fall semester. The energy-efficient building is fully ADA compliant, with modernized classrooms and labs, improved lighting and acoustics and up-to-date chemical storage facilities.
The completion of Phase II followed the recent, dramatic opening of the Science Complex Addition, an adjacent, connected facility that includes new labs, offices and classroom space, plus a planetarium suspended over a visually striking atrium area that serves as a bright and open gathering area for faculty and students. That facility was opened in December 2010.
Together, Phase II and the addition form the new Science Complex, the largest building project in EMU's history. The total facility is 256,320 square feet, with 107 labs. It houses five departments: Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, the department of Physics & Astronomy and the department of Geography & Geology.
In all, 660,000 pounds of drywall were used in the project, 2,127 tons of cement block were recycled and 900 gallons of paint were applied to the interior of the buildings. In addition, 322 windows were replaced, and 42 miles of stud framing were constructed.
Funding for the project was first approved in January 2007. The University broke ground on the project in Nov. of 2008, an event that included current regents Tom Sidlik, a former chair of the board, and Wilbanks, who had both pushed for the project after they joined the board in December 2004.
The University also plans to continue to seek state funding help for renovations to adjacent Strong Hall as a final component to the Science Complex.
The Science Complex is the centerpiece of a period of unprecedented growth at EMU under a five-year capital plan of more than $200 million that spans back to 2009. In fall 2011, EMU reopened its largest classroom building, Pray-Harrold, after a $42 million renovation project performed in collaboration with the state of Michigan.
Other major recent projects at EMU include a state of the art police station, built for $3.9 million out of an existing building on the northwest end of campus, an indoor athletic practice facility, improvements in a variety of residence halls, including the First-Year Center; updated classroom technology and the overall beautification of campus.