The new Rohr Science building opened up in the middle of January, bringing in faculty and students after being under construction since May 2018. The construction took less than a year because all remodeling was done inside the building and not to the exterior.
There are many buildings exactly like Rohr Science all over college campuses in the United States which were government funded and built in the early 60’s after the launching of Sputnik. Because of its history, the building couldn’t be torn down due to the 30 foot height limit that would be placed on the new building according to Dr. Greg Crow, professor of mathematics at PLNU.
“If you tear down a building that’s this tall, you have to dig into the ground another story or two in order to build something like this,” Crow says. “It would be ridiculously more expensive.”
The new building does have three new physics labs that also function as classrooms, a brand new computer lab and a new “maker space” for senior projects with sturdy tables and lots of room to create. All of these rooms are freshly painted in white and have sleek wood finishes, but none of the new gadgets and tables compare to how the building is set up to bring together students and faculty.
“The spacing is well designed for students,” Crow says. “We carefully put the students among us because that’s how we function best and that’s how we teach best.”
During construction, professors were working out of trailers that acted as mobile offices which were placed in the gym parking lot. The tight quarters created some challenges for the professors like not having enough space for students to hang around and for professors to interact with the students, or not being able to pull their books out from storage.
Yet, they still found ways around these problems like bringing noise cancelling wood working headphones like Crow, bringing in tables and chairs for students to hang out outside the offices and sharing lots of laughs at their makeshift mini golf course.
“We had small spaces in which to work but it was also a time of building community and laughing a great deal,” Dr. Maria Zack, Professor and Chair of Mathematical, Information, Computer Sciences, Physics and Engineering and also Special Assistant to the President for Planning, says in an email interview with The Point.
And for this project, Zack picked up a new title as PLNU Construction Manager. She worked closely with the construction company, Bycor, which helped bring this vision that started in 1998 to life by providing the newly remodeled building with heat and air conditioning reaching all of the bathrooms.
“We will certainly all enjoy the upgraded labs and classroom spaces, but more importantly it is a comfortable environment in which people can work both formally and informally,” Zack says. “All of the faculty have missed having the students around us day in and day out.”
Along with the faculty, the students are also excited to move into the new building and out of the parking lot. Because of the tight quarters, conversations and discussions were difficult Emma Vahle, junior physics major, says.
“It was hard to have a private conversation,” Vahle says. “It felt like I was inconveniencing them because of the small space. I feel like I didn’t get to talk to the professors as much.”
And though the moving process is still going on and the finishing touches are still being worked on, it’s getting closer to feeling like their new, cozy home according to Vahle.
“It’s nice to have a place to call home but it doesn’t feel homey,” Vahle says. “There’s no nerdy pictures up yet.”