Georgia Gwinnett College celebrated yet another milestone today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new instructional laboratory facility – a project that brings GGC’s total facilities to one million square feet. The $7 million, 24,000-sq. ft. structure was funded by the University System of Georgia (USG).
USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby participated in the ceremony as part of his first official visit to campus as chancellor.
“This institution is a jewel among jewels in the university system,” Huckaby said in his comments to the audience of about 200. “We will continue to build on this campus. You have a great vision and we at the USG are proud to be part of helping you fulfill that vision.”
Featuring seven modern, multi-disciplinary laboratories and an instrumentation core, the sleek facility is designed for optimum function in meeting the young college’s critical need for more laboratory space.
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important this facility is for the college,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “Our existing laboratory space was a limiting factor on our enrollment growth and further development as an institution. Last year, we hit that limit.”
The need for more laboratories was foreseen in 2006. During his first week as dean for the School of Science and Technology, Thomas Mundie calculated that GGC would run out of laboratory capacity when it reached 6,000 students. Without more lab space, enrollment would have had to be capped. About 8,000 are expected on campus when fall semester classes begin on Aug. 17.
“It’s great to see what’s happening with all of the buildings on campus,” said Georgia State Senator Don Balfour. “But it’s wonderful to see the impact on student’s lives.” He also commented on GGC’s high retention rates and the college’s affordability.
All students must take a minimum number of laboratory science courses. As GGC’s enrollment has grown, so has the demand for both introductory lab courses as well as upper-level courses.
“This fall, we will have 1,000 juniors and 700 seniors who will require upper-level laboratory courses,” said Mundie. “As our larger freshman classes advance, these numbers will grow dramatically. These new laboratories are needed to accommodate the college’s changing demographics, as well as meeting the SACS accreditation requirement of providing facilities that support our programs.”
The college is requesting approval for a new chemistry major, which will generate a need for even more upper-level laboratory courses. Also, students needing upper-level laboratory courses include those majoring in exercise science, math and education.
“The new laboratory facility is designed for eventual incorporation into the college’s planned Allied Health and Sciences building, which has not yet been funded,” said Eddie Beauchamp, vice president for Facilities and Operations. “However, we do have design funds for the building. Both the laboratory structure and the Allied Health and Sciences building will feature brick, glass and metal architecture to complement existing campus buildings. The laboratory facility’s intended LEED-silver certification is pending, based on completion of the full Allied Health and Sciences project.”
The new structure includes a row of laboratories, fronted by windows and adjacent to an atrium-like hallway that will run the full length of the facility. The design provides natural lighting and allows passers-by to see laboratory activities.
“This is a ‘science on display’ concept. Our laboratories will be centrally located on the campus, not tucked away as they are at many institutions,” Mundie said. “Science and technology are so central to higher education, and to society in general, that we wanted a facility that emphasized this important role through its design and location.”
Mundie cited the need for the U.S. to stay competitive in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to be successful in the global economy. GGC is a valuable part of the conduit of students into the STEM disciplines, whether by producing graduates prepared for STEM careers or for graduate school in STEM fields, he said.
“Students can be excited by hands-on experiences in the STEM disciplines,” he said. “If they see it in action, touch it, smell it and answer open-ended questions with critical thinking, they can experience the scientific method and the discoveries it brings.”
Of the seven laboratories, one will be dedicated to computational sciences, one to multi-disciplinary research, one to physics, one to natural sciences and three to biology and chemistry courses. They will be equipped with an advanced audio-visual system, including high-definition and three-dimensional imaging capabilities. Each laboratory will accommodate 24 students.
GGC’s 10 existing laboratories are located in Building A, and were built for freshman and sophomore courses offered through the Gwinnett University Center, which originally occupied the space. These laboratories are operating at maximum capacity, including evening and Saturday sessions.
The new laboratories have already been scheduled for fall semester courses bringing the facility nearly to capacity.
The project architects are Richard Wittschiebe Hand of Atlanta. The construction company is Garrard Construction of Duluth and the program manager is Hal Gibson Companies of West Point, Georgia. The building was completed in less than five months.