Una's Science And Technology Building Is Everything And More!
Aug. 10, 2015
By Bryan Rachal, University Communications
FLORENCE, Ala. - You never really know how much stuff you have until you move. And when you move, you also realize that closets and desks can hold a surprising amount of stuff. That's what professors in the University of North Alabama College of Arts and Sciences have found out as they move from the old Floyd Hall to the new Science and Technology building.
Dr. Tom Haggerty, department chair for biology, said the process has been a chore, but it's also exciting. "We're starting to unpack things and it's starting to look like a classroom in the various rooms, and our research areas are up and running. So it's feeling pretty good to finally be over here and have that move behind us."
For many in the sciences at UNA, this move, and, more specifically, this building, has been a long time coming, literally. If you were to ask members of university administration, they will probably tell you that it took 10 years and a whole lot of work from former president William Cale. And that's true, but Dr. Brenda Webb, department chair for earth science and physics, said it's actually taken longer than that. "It's actually been in the plan for 30 or 20 years, she said."
By plan, Webb means that there was talk about replacing Floyd for many years, but she said she attributes the success of the Cale era to the former president's background. "I think Dr. Cale's background in ecology helped him really become focused that this would be what he would leave UNA," Webb said. Haggerty said that Cale had also taught in Floyd during his tenure at UNA and he could see just how dire the need was for a new science building.
Dr. Brent Olive, department chair for chemistry and industrial hygiene, said humidity was one of the key culprits in the deterioration of Floyd. "It's raining in one of our labs over there right now; they literally come up there every few hours and mop up; it's raining," he said. "I mean we got the job done. We were always hesitant to say we couldn't do our job in that building, because we've been graduating good students for decades that go out and get great jobs and make great salaries. I mean we've been able to do it; it just hasn't been the most desirable conditions."
Haggerty said that when it comes to science and the conditions surrounding an experiment, the environment that you're in has a lot to do with how it works and if it works well, especially when you're working with cells and chemicals. "You need, not a sterile environment, but you can't have fungi growing on the walls and in the vents. You're bringing in another variable that's probably not good to have in the equation."
According to Webb, research shows that the environment also makes all the difference when it comes to students learning and professors teaching. "You can walk around this new building even on a bad day and people are smiling because of where we are," she said. "For all intents and purposes, the faculty should be very happy."
Webb said the architects relied heavily on them for input. "They looked to us to guide the basic components and the layout and they brought their expertise to layer on that. But we had a lot of input in terms of what happened in this building. So that alone was most helpful."
What's also very helpful for the faculty is the amount of space. At 160,000 square feet, and with a price tag of $40 million, the new science and technology building is UNA's biggest and most expensive single building on campus. It's also a sign from the university that the sciences are extremely important.
"On the national level we know that there's recognition for science inclusion," said Webb. "But on the practical level we struggle with citizens accepting science and students majoring in science. So by letting this be a centerpiece it does call that attention."
The real proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and the real question is: Will this building help when it comes to recruiting students? All three professors unanimously said yes. "For the student who is not looking for a large university atmosphere, we have that regional school advantage already; then you add in a building like this, and yeah, it puts us above other schools," said Olive.
For the faculty members in the different departments the real advantage is designated spaces. According to Haggerty, biology is diverse in both terms of the subjects studied and the faculty involved. "You've got those of us who are field biologists and others who work with molecules and genes. So they really need a clean environment and now they have it. And not only did we get a new building, but we also got new equipment. So they're getting those labs equipped. They're as excited as they can be and enthusiastic. In fact, we've already been working with students in the new labs," said Haggerty.
All three department chairs agreed that the enthusiasm will translate into more productivity from the faculty; and the best part is that they're involving students in the research as well. After all, that's what it's about, engaging the students.
As for the old building coming down, well that's bitter sweet for all three, too. "But we'll get over it," Haggerty quipped.
For more information on the sciences at UNA: https://www.una.edu/artsandsciences/