More than 100 people gathered Sept. 30 on Augusta University’s Health Sciences Campus to celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Science and Mathematics building, a $70 million project that took just over two years to construct and equip with scientific instrumentation.
Officials broke ground Aug. 23, 2019, on what has become a four-story, over 125,000-square-foot facility that has 22 teaching labs, a tutoring center, more than 80 faculty offices and will feature a top floor dedicated to research.
Dr. Rickey Hicks served as the first dean of the College of Science and Mathematics from 2014 until his passing in 2017. He was an avid researcher and had envisioned proper research laboratories for faculty and undergraduate and graduate students. He explained his idea to, among others, Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD, during an event where Keel was being recognized as the college’s distinguished alumnus for 2015.
“Dr. Hicks told me his plan, and I must admit at the time, I asked myself, ‘What in the world are you thinking? Why would you want to move one of the major colleges from the undergraduate Summerville Campus and plop it right down here in the Health Sciences Campus?’” Keel said back in 2019. “Little did I know that in three months I would be president of the university and right in the middle of the planning for this move.
“It didn’t take me long to understand the wisdom and, indeed, the genius of this vision and to embrace wholeheartedly the planning and execution of this building.”
Hicks’ widow Kim was in attendance for the ceremony, as were University System of Georgia Vice Chancellor Sandra Neuse, Regent James M. Hull, Don Grantham, Sens. Max Burns and Harold Jones, Rep. Rob Leverett, Augusta Commissioner Francine Scott and officials from the University System of Georgia Facilities Office, the Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission, Georgia Power and Bank of America
Dr. John Sutherland, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, marveled at the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration given the proximity of the new building to the Medical College of Georgia, the Dental College of Georgia, and buildings housing research laboratories. He noted that the Science and Mathematics building is bridged, literally, to the Interdisciplinary Research Building and figuratively to the entire health care research complex.
“We can honestly say the College of Science and Mathematics is a college like none other, but the critical thing is, it’s like none other in ways that advance the academic and career aspirations of our students, and the professional and research agenda of our faculty,” he said.
Sutherland acknowledged and thanked all who had a hand in getting the building approved, designed and constructed while also highlighting another group of very important people: the students. He said it has been a pleasure “watching them in their laboratory classes, using the study spaces, making use out of the many whiteboards that adorn the walls, and relaxing in the newly landscaped quadrangle between the Science and Mathematics building and the Dental College of Georgia.”
Senior Nadine Long, a double major pursuing bachelor’s degrees in cell and molecular biology and mathematics, and Karson Welty, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Science in Biological and Computational Mathematics, both spoke with excitement, gratitude and at times awe about what the new facility means to them and what it will allow them to accomplish.
“I’ve been a classmate to many students and a friend to even more, and I know the passion they have,” Long said. “But to be able to look out the window and see the professional school they aim for really helps overcome the stress that these classes can put us through.
“I was told that Augusta University would provide me a world-class academic and social community that is inclusive, diverse and will position students for opportunities and success. I am a senior, so while AU fulfilled its promise to me without this building, I know that future students … will have this building to look upon, and know that AU is committed to them, rooting for them and invested in them.”