With the renovation of Alumni Hall nearing completion and opening in the fall of 2014, the focus on campus improvement will next turn to the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center. Renovation will begin once the majority of the renovation funds, estimated to be between $15-$20 million, have been secured.
The dated nature of SMC can become an obstacle to current students and faculty, as well as prospective students who visit the campus. President Teresa Amott knows this and believes that SMC “requires up to date facilities.”
“Science is an area in the academic program where the facilities are especially critical … to remain current requires more up-to-date facilities,” she said.
The renovation of the building is the next phase of the “phased renovation plans”. According to Dean Laura Behling, the new SMC building will contain more open space for students and faculty to work with.
“We’ll start with the A-Wing and do renovations there and then work around each of the A, B, C, D wings and do the renovations that we need and the labs over several years. The newer windows will allow for more natural light to be let into the building as well,” Behling said.
“The renovations open up that brick space and creates opportunities for more collaborative space. It allows us to centralize some faculty to further disciplinary education and create open space to encourage open thinking.”
Originally built in 1971, SMC is one of Knox’s busiest buildings on campus. Hosting every science and mathematics division, the IT department, numerous classrooms and laboratories and a library, it arguably is also the most utilized.
“I’m a SMC rat. All of my classes are here pretty much,” junior Yoseph Willis said. “I think that this building is one of the oldest [on campus] and least updated. When you walk into CFA it looks gorgeous. You can tell things here are old based on the water fountains and placement of sinks. They were built when average height was maybe 5’4. Personally, I’d like to see more money spent.”
“All of my classes the past two terms … except one, has been in SMC,” said junior Gbenga Ojo, discussing how he believes that SMC is a great facility with positive aspects but that its shortcomings are bothersome.
“There were lots of times where the classes were too cold and it was hard to learn there … they eventually had to change the classroom that we were was using because of it. Some of the classrooms don’t have window blinds and it’s only a styrofoam separation between the classroom and outside.”
When Ojo was asked about the group projects and collaboration space within SMC, he stated that work similar to that is done outside of the facility.
“[Seymour] library has a lot more space to have discussions. SMC’s library is not as big, and it’s small to the point where you would end up disturbing someone else.”
When compared to other schools in the ACM, SMC is one of the oldest science buildings that has not been fully renovated. Built in 1971, SMC is not as up to date as Grinnell’s Robert Noyce Science Center which was renovated in 1997 and 2008; Ripon’s Farr Hall was built in 1961 and renovated in 1997; Monmouth’s Center for Science and Business was built in 2013 and Beloit’s new four-story Center for the Sciences which was designed by Holabird & Root.
“The space is big but the building needs to be re-done,” Professor of Chemistry Mary Crawford said. “It’s difficult to write grants and be able to keep them with the dated technology and compete with other schools.”
Professor of Psychology Frank McAndrew also spoke to the dated nature of the building. While he believes that the building does not hinder faculty from doing their job, he stated that it would be nice to teach in a more “pleasant area.”
“Everything about SMC needs to be changed. I think having better classrooms that are equipped with state-of-the-art technology will certainly make it easier to teach. … I don’t think that the building right now is hurting us or not allowing us to do our jobs, but the renovations will give us more flexible space,” McAndrew said.
“If you look at other ACM schools, they all have completed significant renovations to their science buildings in the last ten years or so,” said President Amott. “Our plan is to create more open space for interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty.”
Looking around the ACM, science buildings have become modern marvels due to their design and usage. With SMC hosting so much of Knox’s core, it would make the most sense for the building to change as much as the disciplines do. Yet Knox students will have to wait longer as the majority of the funds need to be secured in order to begin.
Beverly Holmes, the vice president of fundraising for the college, stated that the funds need to be in cash or in pledges before new ground can break.
“The way Knox works is that you want to have as close to 90 percent of the funding needed to begin. That way we can have enough of the funding to have the reconstruction completed and then turn our focus to the soft costs such as carpets and furnishings,” Holmes said.
A point of concern for the next set of renovations will be finances. After raising $11 million dollars to finance the renovation of Alumni Hall, speculation wavered on where the commerce for this project would fall. An estimate between $15-$17 million was stated by Dean Behling, yet the number seems closer to $20 million according to President Amott and Holmes. That is just for the A-Wing alone.
“Whoa, that’s crazy,” senior Phil Bennett said “I definitely believe that the sciences need to be integrated more since they’re a huge part of the curriculum and would love to see those renovations take place. President Amott finished Alumni Hall pretty quickly but yeah, that number is pretty intense.”
“We want to have science in view. Not just bodies but a balance of intellectual inquiry on campus,” said Amott.