University breaks ground on science building, set to bolster Webster STEAMM

Department Chair of Biological Sciences Stephanie Schroeder speaks at the Interdisciplinary Science Building’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Department Chair of Biologies Stephanie Schroeder stands at a podium beside eight shovels. The shovels signify the end of a long wait for Schroeder and her colleagues; the wait for a new science building at Webster.

“I want to savor this moment,” Schroeder said. “I will be honest here; I can’t believe this is happening. We’ve felt like Charlie Brown and that football. This time we’re going to kick that ball.”

After more than 50 years of planning, Webster broke ground on the Interdisciplinary Science Building (ISB) Sept. 9. Estimated by Webster to cost $33 million, the building will relocate several departments into one building near the north lawn of the East Academic Building.

The building marks a step forward for the university when it comes to science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and medicine based (STEAMM) education by providing an entire building focused on these studies.

“With new discoveries being made each day comes new challenges. This building will give my peers and I a better environment to research, to learn and to help solve these challenges,” said sophomore biological sciences major Joshua Embry. “When the new building is completed, I will be a senior just ready to begin my own research. I will have many more opportunities with the better equipment.”

Embry said he and his fellow students make do with what they have, but look forward to using the ISB during their senior year.

The ISB will house not only biological sciences,  but also anthropology and sociology, international language and cultures, nurse anesthesia, nursing, psychology and the Institute of Human Rights.  Twenty-five laboratory classrooms, four classrooms, a dual computation laboratory and classroom, 51 faculty offices, 20 staff offices, six adjunct offices, a 129-seat auditorium and a common area for students will make up the ISB.

Since she came to Webster in 2003, Schroeder has been involved in planning and designing eight different variations of the ISB. Construction for the new building is set to start in spring 2016. Schroeder said Webster’s current sophomore students will be able to use the building before they graduate.

Most of the science classes at Webster are held in Webster Hall’s bottom floor, where Schroeder said the equipment is outdated and there is little space for students to work in. Currently, science students and faculty only have a single chemistry lab, three biology labs and one physics lab. Most of those labs have equipment that is more than 50 years old.

“We have done so much, with so little, for so long,” Schroeder said.

The ISB will provide eight times the lab space Webster currently has with modern technology throughout. The building’s plan calls for four biology labs, four chemistry labs, one physics lab and a physical lab for miscellaneous physical studies. It will also add six dedicated student and faculty labs.

Schroeder said while the current equipment that is used in Webster Hall is safe, modern equipment will allow students to explore their fields of study through more advanced research.

“It’s important for the students, because then they’re being trained on modern equipment with modern techniques,” Schroeder said. “It will allow us to do things we can’t do now for safety reasons.”

Embry said, while the facilities in Webster Hall served their purpose, the new science building is necessary for student growth.

“The basement of Webster Hall has served to its full potential, but the new building gives promise, to all students, for a better future,” Embry said.

At the ground breaking, Provost Julian Schuster recalled touring the science facilities when he arrived at Webster in 2010. He said after the tour there was no question, a new science building needed to be a priority. 

Contributed Photo
The 3-D printout of the Interdisciplinary Science Building and its surrounding landscape demonstrates the final construction.

“When I saw the science labs down in the original building in Webster Hall, I didn’t need to hear anything more about it,” Schuster said. “Beth (Stroble) and I set out to make this a priority of this administration.”

Schuster said biology is the most popular major at Webster, and that the trend is expected to continue in the next decade.

Schroeder said she is glad she will no longer have to give prospective students tours through Webster Hall’s dated facilities. She said modern facilities will make it easier to convince biology students who may be thinking about Webster to commit.

“We offer a lot of hands-on experience that isn’t provided at other universities,” Schroeder said. “But when I talk to prospective students who want to come here and I take them on a tour of our current facilities, it’s probably pretty hard to understand how we’re able to do that.”

Schroeder said the idea of students having the proper facilities to study in will bolster Webster’s student research.

“Our students deserve this,” Schroeder said. “They’ve deserved this for a long time.”

President Elizabeth Stroble said the ISB is a requirement for Webster’s progression into the university’s next century. She said the building is imperative to the cultivation of STEAMM at Webster.

“This is a long awaited day and it has arrived,” Stroble said. “This building is an inescapable and necessary element.”

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