It took more than 10 years of politics and $52 million of concrete and glass, but officials at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville finally dedicated their new science building Monday.
SIU President Glenn Poshard and Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe celebrated the opening of Science West on Monday with legislators and stakeholders from administration to the student body. The building puts SIUE at "the forefront of the sciences," which will enhance not only the degree programs but the health and science industries in southern Illinois, according to SIU Board Chairman Randal Thomas.
"For some time now, the lack of a new science building has been an impediment to the growth of this university, and today we can say that hurdle has been cleared," Poshard said.
The building, houses the chemistry, biology and environmental sciences departments., includes a 30-kilowatt solar array funded with a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and a variety of other "green" energy features, such as non-heat absorbing roofing materials, low water use plumbing, high-efficiency insulation and windows, occupancy sensors for lighting and air conditioning.
Science West is now the seventh building on campus certified under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Furst-Bowe said.
The top-notch equipment also places SIUE higher in the sciences, according to those who use it. For example: SIUE now has a $150,000 confocal microscope, which allows a higher resolution without background interference by using lasers. According to biology professor Faith Liebl, it is highly specialized equipment.
"Not many universities our size have one of these; it's pretty advanced," Liebl said, demonstrating the laser-created images on a screen during an open house following the ceremony.
Senior biochemistry major Victoria Francis spoke about the "warm" and "cold" labs that allow much more research and experimentation from microbiology to plant sciences.
"I spend almost every day here," Francis said. "It's my home away from home, to the point where the Jimmy John's delivery man knows where to find me."
Furst-Bowe said the expansion of SIUE's science offerings to accommodate so many students tending toward the health sciences will have a beneficial impact on health care in southern Illinois.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, who is a 1974 graduate of SIUE, said it showed just how far the campus had come from the few core buildings that existed when he attended. "Today we see what excellence in education is," he said.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, was part of a group of legislators who toured the old, outdated science building in 2004, as college leaders tried to convince the state to fund a new building.
"It was deplorable, absolutely appalling for a major university to have that building," Haine said. But it still took several more years to get the science building placed on the list for the $34 billion capital improvements bills passed in 2009.
"Words can't describe how I feel today, looking at this building," Haine said.
Next is a $30 million renovation of the old science building, now known as Science East. The future home of the physics, mathematics and statistics departments, as well as the STEM Center, Science East will undergo renovations beginning in early 2014.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2507.