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New MSU STEM facility breaks ground


The first new classroom building constructed on MSU’s campus in nearly 50 years, the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility will be a 117,000-square-foot giant of academia, building from — and renovating — the old 40,000 square foot Shaw Lane Power Plant.

According to MSU’s website, one-third of teaching laboratories are housed in facilities over 40 years old. Over the past 10 years, enrolled credit hours in STEM and STEM-related courses increased by 38 percent.

“What they experience here will have students poised to be in high demand,” John Engler, interim president of MSU, said.

In 2017, Engler said the university sat down at a roundtable with major employers from across the United States to discuss the future of MSU’s STEM program. “U.S. employers will need a million more people with substantial STEM literacy,” he said.

The total budget is $97.5 million for the project: $72.5 million for the new STEM facility construction and $40 million to renovate the Shaw Lane Power Plant.

“Quite often, I hear people say that the role of higher education is to train people for jobs or careers,” Melanie Cooper, Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education, said. “While it is certainly true we are preparing future engineers, scientists, doctors and, most importantly, educators, I would argue that our role is not to train but to educate.”

The days of someone holding one job, or one career are over, Cooper said.

“Knowledge is growing at such a high rate — it doesn’t make sense to look upon the university as a training ground for jobs.”

Students will need to learn how to adapt to new knowledge, she said. “While facts and calculations are important building blocks, they mean nothing without understanding.”

The new facility will be designed for students to learn for the future.

“The new STEM building will play a crucial role in supporting students, as they engage in evidence based active ways of earning. They will work in flexible working environments rather than sitting in a lecture hall,” Cooper said. “Students will ask and answer their own questions. They will solve and pose problems and develop solutions for meaningful issues.”

Upon completion, the new addition will house undergraduate teaching laboratories and project laboratories, as well as space that will support gateway courses for biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, physics and engineering.

The former Shaw Lane Power Plant will take a different direction. It’s slated to house a student common room, gallery, studio space and idea accelerator for faculty and students. The Biological Sciences Program offices and Undergraduate Research office will take up residency in its halls as well.


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