College embarks on historic effort with new Integrated Science and Engineering Complex

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Science and engineering at Union is undergoing a rebirth—an expansion and renovation of facilities that will make Union College one of the country’s top undergraduate institutions.

How? Interdisciplinary opportunity.

Because at Union, it isn’t just about science, technology, engineering and math. It’s about STEM and the arts, social sciences and humanities.

“The most significant legacy of this project, along with all the others that we’ve done, is that Union will be—without question—the college of choice for physicists who want to dance; chemists who want to be in theater; or art history majors who understand that technology is going to infuse the fields that they are in as well,” President Stephen C. Ainlay said when he announced the project March 3.

A illustration of the new science and engineering complex

The largest and most ambitious project in Union’s history, the $100 million center will be completed in phases over the next two years. This includes an addition completed for fall term 2018 and renovation of three sections of the existing S&E Center by fall 2019.

After approval by the City of Schenectady, a groundbreaking ceremony occurred during ReUnion on May 19.

Built during the late 1960s and dedicated in 1971, the Science and Engineering Center has been instrumental in educating generations of students in biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, and computer, electrical and mechanical engineering.

The reconstruction will revolutionize teaching, learning and research. It will connect people and programs across engineering, science and liberal arts in pioneering ways—something that Union has made a habit of doing over the years.

The first liberal arts institution to offer engineering in 1845, the College holds a distinctive place in higher education.

“We are excited to build upon our strong tradition of innovation by embarking on a project that will encourage multidisciplinary approaches to complex problems, and allow our students and faculty to continue to compete with the best in the world,” said John E. Kelly III ’76, chairman of the board of trustees. The board approved the project in February.

Matthew Malatesta ’91, vice president for Admissions, Financial Aid and Enrollment, echoed these sentiments.

“This project capitalizes on the great momentum Union has as a college that is redefining what the liberal arts are about, since the modern age requires students to understand arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering—all in conjunction,” he said. “These new facilities will allow our faculty and students to continue their collaborations, but also find new and exciting ways to further the undergraduate research which is a hallmark of Union.”

“This project is essential for Union to maintain its historic leadership role in the liberal arts—a role that flows from our institution’s integration of arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering,” Ainlay said.

In addition to strengthening STEM facilities, the design of the new complex will enrich collaboration across disciples. It will encourage and enable student and faculty research that results in creative solutions to the challenges of today’s globally and technologically diverse world.

President Stephen C. Ainlay announces the Integrated Science and Engineering Complex

“We have an opportunity at Union to take what we’ve done in the area of facilities and push ourselves to become the new definition of what it means to be liberally educated in the 21st century,” Ainlay said. “To be the world’s best in the liberal arts requires that you have strong STEM fields, but it also requires you to have strong arts and strong humanities— that you have strong social sciences.”

Another view of the new science and engineering complex

“This project is going to give us a kind of new energy and push us into a place that Union has been long destined to occupy.” Kelly agrees.

“This extraordinary undertaking is a major step in our goal to be the world’s best institution at fully integrating liberal arts with engineering,” he said. “I encourage everyone to join me in supporting the renovation and expansion of this transformative facility.”

The project will be paid for through a combination of fundraising, reserves and debt financing. The complex is designed to U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Albany is the project architect; Charles Kirby, principal in charge; David Clemenzi, project administrator; and Bruce Molino, project designer.

The College has built or renovated 14 major structures over the past 10 years, including the Taylor Music Center, Lippman Hall, Lamont House, Karp Hall, Peter Irving Wold Center, Henle Dance Pavilion, Wicker Wellness Center, Kelly Adirondack Center, Breazzano Fitness Center and the recently completed Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts.


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