With close to 100 faculty, staff and state officials on hand, Augusta University officially broke ground on the new 124,518-square-foot College of Science and Mathematics building on Aug. 23, a $70 million project that is set to open in the summer of 2021.
The new facility will complete the quad at The Dental College of Georgia and J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons. The proximity of the three buildings will give science and mathematics professors and students access to two 300-seat tiered auditoriums, a 150-seat tiered classroom, a 150-seat active learning classroom and a café.
It is part of AU’s plan to move the college and its students from the Summerville Campus to the Health Sciences Campus as well as give the other undergraduate programs at Summerville the ability to grow.
It will also accommodate the demand for STEM education space, which will create a teaching environment that encourages more cross-departmental collaboration.
“This is an important step in our journey to become a comprehensive research university. A lot of our students arrive at Augusta University interested in careers in health care,” said College of Science and Mathematics Dean John Sutherland. “This will provide a great opportunity for them to be in the middle of the Health Sciences Campus and see what it’s like.”
The University System of Georgia will provide $55 million while friends, supporters and stakeholders will be asked to provide $10 million in private funding. There will also be building naming opportunities to purchase ranging from $25,000 for office spaces, student meeting rooms and an undergraduate project lab to $500,000 for the first-floor lobby and administration and office suites.
“This new facility is an important next step in Augusta University’s growth,” Chairman of the Board of Regents Don Waters said. “It also represents a foundational strategic imperative in the University System of Georgia’s strategic plan by contributing to the development of high-quality academic programs that create high-impact learning opportunities as well as career opportunities for students. As we know this contributes to student success, which is our high priority.”
A dean’s vision
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 who specialized in antimicrobial peptides in drug design for use in fighting drug-resistant bacteria. He held five patents and had 55 publications.
He had envisioned proper research laboratories for undergraduate students and explained his idea to AU president Dr. Brooks Keel during an event where Keel was being recognized as its most distinguished alumni.
“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. “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. Moving the College of Science and Mathematics to the Health Sciences Campus will allow AU to put the science undergraduate students that have an interest in pursuing a variety of fields in science and mathematics, but some of those, especially for graduate or professional careers in medicine, dentistry, allied health and biomedical research, right here in the middle of the white coats.”
Sutherland added that the location will increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students participating in projects around the Health Sciences Campus.
Calculating the possibilities
Dr. Gretchen Caughman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, began Friday’s ceremony by thanking Augusta for the land and the opportunity to expand the university.
“We knew at the time it would be very important to our future, and now we know it is pivotal to the development of our Health Sciences Campus and also, to all of Augusta University,” Caughman said.
The new building will have four floors. The first three floors will house an entrance lobby that opens onto an administrative suite for deans, department chairs, and administrative staff; a total of 19 teaching labs for Biological Sciences, Chemistry, and Physics; cell tissue culture and microscopy rooms; research project labs; 70 faculty offices; specialized spaces for psychological sciences faculty and staff; a large space for tutoring; large and small conference rooms; and numerous study areas. The fourth floor will provide dedicated space for research.
Caughman said the new facility was a long time coming but “it’s the start of something wonderful.”
“We have so many great plans coming ahead,” she said. “We have the interest, the opportunity and the support of the community and the state to really drive this to make this university a destination choice for all kinds of students.”