Observer-Dispatch: Utica College building toward future

Utica OD Science Center 12-7-19

Photo by Ron Johns / Observer-Dispatch

The Utica College Campus on Burrstone Road has seen much change in its profile over the past decade. That change will continue with new projects on the horizon and further down the road.

Utica College plans to build a new, $12-million-to-$14-million science center.

It’s the latest in a string of campus improvements designed to support growing academic areas and to improve the quality of student life, officials said.

The still-unnamed building, known informally as the science annex, will contain new state-of-the-art labs and classrooms for the university’s science classes, said Todd Pfannestiel, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. The 22,000-to-25,000 square-foot building will connect to the Gordon Science Center and Romano Hall, the health sciences building.

The college wants to maintain solid enrollments in its science majors such as biology, physics and the geosciences, but also support the strong enrollment growth in health professions studies, Pfannestiel said. The strongest growth is in the bachelor’s and master’s degree program in nursing, the accelerated nursing program, occupational therapy and physical therapy, he said.

Students in these programs take laboratory science classes. “The (existing) facility is outdated, especially when it comes to laboratory space,” he said.

“We’re actually thinking of ways with this building that we can do even more,” Pfannestiel said.

Another project in the works will address student life, not academics.

“It’s not just our students when they’re here in an academic room or a lab,” Pfannestiel said. “It’s our students when they’re here 24/7.”

The project calls for the renovation of the recently purchased Newman Center building into an intercultural center for students. Private donors are funding the renovation, he said.

Student groups currently are crowded into the overpacked Ralph F. Strebel Student Center, Pfannestiel said. The new center will provide space for all kinds of student activities, he said.

“This is set aside for the students, for their activities,” he said. The building will not contain classrooms or labs.

Officials struggled with a name for the building; it is not intercultural in the sense of different nationalities, but in the sense of all forms of diversity, Pfannestiel explained.

“We have many diverse cultures represented here at UC. ... This is not a center just for Greek organizations. This is not a center just for athletic organizations. This is a center where all student groups can have voice,” he said.

The last new academic building constructed on campus was Thurston Hall, the building for the construction management program, which opened just over a year ago. Enrollment has been growing and all the program’s students, about 125 a year on average, find jobs after graduation, Pfannestiel said.

“We don’t build just because we can,” he said. “We build because the academic programs demand it.”

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