A new building on the University of Central Oklahoma campus will bring together faculty and students from multiple disciplines to blend their ideas and expertise into a “much broader vision.”
UCO President Don Betz said the Interdisciplinary STEM Teaching and Research Center is the “future of Oklahoma and the future of the men and women of this state.”
Estimates show the state needs more college graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields to meet future employment demands.
The 57,000-square-foot building will bring together chemists, biologists, mathematicians, forensic scientists, engineers and more to work side-by-side under one roof.
“Here you will see the cross-pollination of ideas from across all STEM disciplines. … It will open a new chapter for the College of Mathematics and Science,” said Wei Chen, dean of the college.
Chen said he looks forward to working with students in modern research labs and interactive classrooms.
“This new STEM building will be breathtaking, mesmerizing and forward-looking — an evolving space for many years to come,” he said.
Moving faculty into an interdisciplinary work space “forces the hand of innovation,” Barthell said.
“That is also beneficial for our students because they’ll be in an environment where there will be this crossover of ideas.”
The result will be graduates who are better prepared to fill those in-demand STEM jobs, he said.
Barthell and Chen both credit mathematician Charlotte Simmons, associate vice president of academic affairs, with reconciling the desired building with the available revenue.
Those three individuals and others were not deterred and made the project happen despite “such a decline in support from the state,” Betz said.
“At a time of challenge, we seize the opportunity because we know we cannot stop. The future belongs to our ability to craft the human talent that is our most sustainable asset,” he said.
“We know why we’re here.”