Austin College officials will host a groundbreaking ceremony for the College’s new IDEA Center on Friday, June 3, at 11:30 a.m. at the building site north of Mason Complex.
The brief ceremony will include a welcome from Austin College President Marjorie Hass, as well as remarks from Robert M. Johnson, chair of the Austin College Board of Trustees and a 1953 alumnus of the College; Larry Robinson professor emeritus of physics, who retired in May and who speaks on behalf of the Science faculty; junior science major Carla Khalaf; and Bill Magers, mayor of Sherman and a 1985 graduate of Austin College. Chaplain John Williams, a 1984 graduate, will offer an invocation.
The $38 million IDEA Center will be a three-story, 103,000-square-foot facility including 16 classrooms, 32 advanced laboratory-classrooms, 40 faculty offices, a 108-seat auditorium, and an observatory. The center will house of the departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics, and physics.
The IDEA Center is the final piece of Austin College’s current strategy to integrate science and technology into the liberal arts curriculum and maintain a competitive program in these fields, said Mike Imhoff, vice president for Academic Affairs. “This building actually has been designed to enhance the interdisciplinary relationships within the sciences,” Imhoff said. “Now, it’s clear that interdisciplinary connections are extending to other programs outside the sciences.”
Those interdisciplinary connections are at the heart of the liberal arts. “Our highest priority is to offer a lasting liberal arts education, not just technical career preparation that students might find out of date by the time they enter the workforce,” said President Marjorie Hass. “A liberal arts education fosters and develops an inquisitive mind, a thirst and excitement for discovery, and a fearless, entrepreneurial spirit. Our goal is to make that type of education accessible to all of our students in order to equip them to be successful throughout their lives.”
Construction of the IDEA Center will increase science academic space on campus by 50 percent, greatly needed in the academic division that has seen approximately 50 percent increase in majors since current facilities were constructed. “We have pretty much maximized our use of current classroom space,” Imhoff said. “Most classrooms on campus were built 20 to 40 years ago and are technologically and aesthetically outdated.”
The LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) IDEA Center will incorporate new “green” strategies using renewable energy resources and ecologically friendly construction techniques and building materials. The building design itself exhibits science at work by taking advantage of solar shading and natural light, incorporating more efficient mechanical systems, and landscaping with native vegetation. Features of the new complex will reduce the building’s energy consumption and establish a new campus standard for the design, construction, and operation of environmentally friendly buildings.
One highlight of the new facility will be the IDEA Center Observatory, equipped with a state-of-the-art telescope to provide a window to the universe. College officials anticipate the observatory will allow further outreach to the larger community.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.