Every student who plans to graduate from Skidmore College will be subject to taking a natural lab science class, even if they are not of that major. However this does not necessarily mean that students will be taking these classes in state-of-the-art buildings built in the last decade, such like students at many of the other Northeast Liberal Arts Colleges. Instead, many students have been going to lab science classes in the same buildings and spaces that were created and have been used since the 1960s.
In as soon as the next five and a half years all of this will change. Skidmore is currently in the process of working to create a new science building that will replace the existing Dana Science Center, and it will be known as the Center for Integrated Science (CIS).
The CIS has a project cost of over $100 million, but it will bring together all nine physical and life science departments and programs under one roof. Currently, these vast classes are spread out from the Williamson Sports Center, to Tisch Learning Center to Dana Science Center. “By bringing together all nine physical and life science departments we are going to be able to show students how all of those disciplines integrate together. Plus we will be able to establish new synergies that are not possible when everyone is spread across multiple buildings,” said Kimberley Frederick, Chair and Professor of Chemistry. “I think it will really improve the educational experience for students. All students not just science students,” Frederick said.
This construction project “will be one of the largest projects in recent college history, with the initial campus construction in the 1960s aside,” said Paul Lundberg, Assistant Director Construction Services.
The project involves completely gutting the inside of Dana and adding an additional 115,000 square feet. The new building will include 46 research labs, 16 classrooms and meeting rooms, 22 teaching labs, an open atrium, many study and hangout locations, computer labs and an ideal lab. “The ideal lab is basically a place where students can go to actualize their ideas,” said Frederick. The ideal lab will include everything from 3D printers to sewing machines. “It is a place where you can physically create ideas that you have in your head. Whether that be for entrepreneurship, for just some kind of creative expression, or a class project,” Frederick said.
All of this construction is expected to take about four and a half to five years, but that does not mean the project is going to be done in as short as four and a half years. Before construction can even begin there is a long list of tasks that must be completed. The very first thing on the list is finishing the fundraising for the building. So far, fundraising for the building has been going on for 18 months and $32 million has been raised. Ideally Skidmore is hoping to raise $80-100 million. If they can’t raise that much then they are hoping to raise at least $60-80 million.
Originally, “we hoped to be done [with the fundraising] this year, but you never know how fundraising projects like this will progress until you start. We will keep at it until we get there,” said Kimberly Verstandi, Associate Vice President for Advancement and Campaign Director. With this in mind it is unknown how much longer it will take to raise the rest of the money. “We are hoping to get the bulk of [the money] through donations,” but “we may end up borrowing some too depending how it all flushes out,” Karen Kellogg, Associate Dean of the Faculty for Infrastructure, Sustainability, and Civic Engagement said. “The CIS continues to be our top fundraising priority,” Verstandi said.
Once the fundraising for the project is complete, it is then time to start working on permitting for the building and construction documents. These two things alone will take about a year and once they are complete it is time to start taking bids and searching for a builder.
The construction is going to be done in multiple stages with the new added spaces being built first. This will take about two years. Once this is done, the construction team will work on the gutting and construction of the inside of Dana. This way when Dana is being worked on, those offices, research labs and classrooms that were once inside will be able to move to the new space that was built first. Kellogg said that, “there are certainly going to be some inconveniences,” with all the construction, “but the commitment is that there is no disruption [to] teaching or research.”
The final CIS building might be very far from being done, and no current Skidmore students might be here when it is finally opened, but once it is finished it will be a place for all students, those studying the sciences and those not. “This building is really targeted to be a building for every student on campus. Not just for the students taking their lab science and their quantitative reasoning requirements,” Fredrick said. “We wanted to make sure to bring in spaces that the whole campus needs. So we have four general purpose classrooms, four computer classrooms, [and] a larger atrium space for larger community gatherings,” said Kellogg.