STEM Building Opening September 15th

SJ faculty and staff tour the new science and engineering building during in-service. Photo: MAGIS

SJ faculty and staff tour the new science and engineering building during in-service. Photo: MAGIS

Brandon Bain ’16

As we all know, our school is finishing up a huge project: the completion of a new STEM building. The construction has been a part of our daily life at school since the groundbreaking last October. Although the building is nearly ready for use, many people still have questions about it. I sat down with our school’s president, Fr. Dan Lahart, S.J., and asked him some of those questions.


What is innovative about the new science and engineering building? What makes it stand apart from other facilities?

“Everything is new about the building, in so many ways. Compared to Hampil Hall [which currently houses the science classrooms] it’s much larger. Hampil Hall has three science labs and seven classrooms and has very tight office space for the science. This [new] building has nine science labs: 3 for physics, 3 for chemistry, and 3 for biology. It has 21 classrooms. In addition to that, it has much more office space for faculty: 10 spaces for computer science, 20 for math, and 20 for science. And of course we have the beautiful lecture hall that seats 81 people. Then there’s also, and these are the things that are really new, rather than just bigger and more numerous, an engineering lab and an engineering computer lab. There are also 2 other computer labs in the building…. You read a lot in the press today about STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. And that’s what this is, this is a STEM building. It was designed for that purpose for our students. [For] the last several years we’ve been developing a curriculum and a faculty that can teach it…you know people ask if we are growing our faculty in this area, and we have been. This building now provides a home to what we’ve been creating in terms of an academic program already in place.”


What was the building process like and how has its opening been expedited since the initial planning?

“This is the most expensive single building we’ve ever built. That said, we’ve also built it very prudently. We’ve actually come in under budget and ahead of schedule…. We thought it would take longer to  get to the point where we were comfortable starting construction, but you know we’ve had a lot of people support it. The board was comfortable [knowing] if they began, if they approved the beginning of it, we’d be able to complete the fundraising. So I’d say yeah we’re probably in this a year earlier than I thought we would be.”


How do you think this will change the dynamics on campus?

“I think one of the things I’m most excited about seeing is the interplay between the buildings on this side of the campus (Zinnamon Hall, Moran Dining Hall, Clay Center, and the chapel) and this building when Hampil Hall is gone–to imagine that interplay between the buildings with students walking back and forth.”


What is your favorite part of the new building?

“This lecture hall is something unlike anything we’ve ever had before…to see how this gets used, and lots of people have lots of ideas about how this can get used, I think this is exciting. Just to have the amount of labs that we’ll have, to give students that hands on academic experience. Science should be a lot more than lectures. You can watch lectures online. Our class experience is more than that certainly, but to actually get your hands dirty, so to speak, in a lab, I think that’s very exciting. And the possibilities for the engineering department as well.”


What teacher do you think is the most excited for this new building?

“The one I talk to most often, in part because she’s been very helpful in the design of this, the chair of the science department, Mrs. Elizabeth Jamerlan. She’s been fabulous in helping [with] the design of this. The department years ago started going out to other schools and seeing departments and new buildings [to see] what they liked, what they didn’t like, and so they brought that back and she was able to articulate that in terms of their needs. Just like the new prep rooms in the labs, those were a high priority for Mrs. Jamerlan, because its going to make using the labs so much more efficient. So I think she’s very excited.”


Do you think this might be one of the biggest changes on campus that we’ll see for a while?

“Yes. This is a big change obviously. I think it’s hard to overestimate the impact of taking Hampil Hall out. I think that is going to have a dramatic impact on the feel of this campus.”


In what way?

“You know as you stand over by Strake Hall or by the library and you look across Kennelly Green and Hampil Hall is gone, the campus doesn’t really stop [there] but goes much farther to the start of this [new] building. It’s going to make the campus feel much bigger and then of course campus doesn’t end there either, it goes across the street to the fields and the field house.”


Is there a name for the building made public yet?

“Not yet. I’d love for there to be one sometime soon but we’re not in that spot yet.”


What will students be surprised about the most once they start having class in the new building?

“I think how spacious it is. The hallways, the stairwells are large, there are lockers on just one side of the hallway on the first and second floor, so its not going to feel cramped like some places can be. There are going to be a lot of people in the building. Every student will have at least two classes there, math and science. Sophomores will have computer science and others who have more than one science. So, definitely a lot of people will be in this building. But it’s a very quiet building. That will be one of the things people will notice, even as many people are in here, it’s going to feel quiet. It has a warmth to it; it doesn’t feel institutional to me.”

The STEM building will be open for classes beginning Monday, September 15th at 8:00am.