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New science complex on the way

Construction for a new science building, which will replace what is now Boney Hall, is set to start after commencement in May.

According to Joe Watkins, the vice president of External Relations, the cost of building the 33,000 square feet of labs and classrooms is approximately $24 million with $6.2 million still needed to be raised.

PLNU will continue to fundraise for the new science building, currently called the Science Complex, up until construction begins and afterwards.

“With the administration and the Board [of Trustees] working together and our donors, we believe we’ll have, particularly as we work throughout the rest of this year, our funding all in place,” said PLNU President Bob Brower. “We’ll continue to seek funding even after we’re under construction to finish the project and be able to move into some of the renovations as well. It’s a long-term progress. It’s the largest project we’ve ever had in our history, and we’re making good and steady progress.”

Funding efforts include a weekend in April where “a major component of the focus will be around funding for the sciences,” said Brower.

The missing $6.2 million, however, should not affect other PLNU departments, according to Brower.

“There’s not an ‘ok, we’re going to reduce over here to increase over here,’” said Brower. “Just like when we expanded the business school, we didn’t come in and whack sciences to start the business school. It was part of keeping a strong and full enrollment.”

PLNU Women’s Auxiliary and Friends, an alumni group started in 1967 that helps fund projects to benefit students and improve the quality of life on PLNU’s campus, has been asked to contribute to the Science Complex project.

“The list this past year included many great and worthy items,” said Kathryn Kietzke, president of the group, via email. “But, a personal plea from Dr. Brower about the possibility of this ‘dream plaza’ really swayed us. There was no room in the budget that they were working with and we saw how great this project could be for the greatest amount of students. It met our personal criteria in every area and tugged on the strings of our hearts at the same time.”

So far, the Women’s Auxiliary and Friends have raised $12,000 out of its $50,000 goal through fundraising.

The science department’s main building of use, Rohr Science, was built in the late 60’s according to Kenneth Martin, a chemistry professor and the department chair, and space has been tight ever since. A lack of adequate workspace has been a primary motive for the construction of a new science building.

“We are so crowded here,” said Martin. “We’ve actually turned away donated instruments because we’ve had no place to put them. Right now we have a $200,000 instrument that we’re still trying to set up because we’re not quite sure where to put it.”

Within Rohr Science’s three levels, four different departments are represented: Biology; Physics and Engineering; Mathematical, Information and Computer Sciences; and Chemistry. Biology and Chemistry each have their own floors while the remaining two departments share another.

“We have a lot of instruments, we really have every instrument that a modern chemistry department ought to have, but they are almost stacked on top of each other.”

Labs have to be built and torn down for the different needs of classes. One lab can undergo multiple configurations to meet the different needs of classes. Problems such as this, and other basic functions like better ventilation, are to be fixed in the new Science Complex.

Another need for the Science Complex rises from the recent popularity of the sciences. According to Bob Brower, nearly 40 percent of undergraduate students are majoring in one of the sciences.

“The future of the sciences, particularly in San Diego being one of the top three life science areas in the nation, our science has become a strategic part of Point Loma’s future,” said Brower.

Not only will the Science Complex fulfill current needs in functionality, but also visually. With other universities such as Azusa and Westmont rebuilding their science buildings, a new building is needed to keep PLNU attractive for potential students.

“Science is very visual and depends very heavily on facilities,” said Martin. “Sciences classes depend so much on technology and on laboratory space. We’ve been losing students in terms of recruiting efforts because our facilities look worse than some that the high school students are coming from.”

For this project, only Boney Hall will be torn down. Rohr Science will go through a renovation of its own to be used for the Physics and Math department. It will also serve as office space for the professors from the four departments. Prescott Prayer Chapel will remain in its present location.

Plans to renovate the science department facilities began as early as 1998 and were raised again in 2005, but both times, finances remained an issue according to Martin.


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