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UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire bolster STEM programs with new science buildings

UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire announce plans for new science buildings to foster careers in STEM fields.

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Following in the footsteps of many UW System universities, UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire have proposed new science buildings to encourage STEM growth.

Inside Phillips Hall, the primary science building on the UW-Eau Claire campus, Chancellor James Schmidt and UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen announced the projected future of the two buildings.

Earlier this year, Board of Regents approved to replace the current science buildings for both universities, which were beyond renovation. The capital budget allowed more than $256 million to be put toward the new Science and Health Sciences Building at UW-Eau Claire.

“This building has gone way past its useful lifetime,” Schmidt said at the announcement. “If all goes well, we would open a new building in five years. That’s no small task.”

The new facility will work as a catalyst for graduates looking to fill the gaps within the STEM workforce by supplying them with an opportunity to work with enhanced equipment and spaces.

“We can become the hub of science in northwest Wisconsin,” Schmidt said. “But we need to give our science students and faculty more modern facilities if we are going to do that.”

While undergoing construction, the students will continue attending classes in Phillips Hall. However, two residence halls, Katherine Thomas and Putnam Halls, will be taken down to make room for the new facility.

UW-River Falls is also keen on making a home for STEM programs at their university.

The regents approved a $111 million budget for the new Science and Technology Innovation Center. The space will include 12 laboratories, research spaces and a “hub for internships” for those interested in the innovation partnership program.

There will also be business incubator facilities, which will foster connections for students pursuing startup businesses.

At the university, 30 percent of degrees earned were in STEM fields, according to Van Galen.

“We need the state to invest in science to boost our economy,” he said.

Both university leaders see these investments as an opportunity to see positive change in STEM fields as they encourage students to follow their interest in science programs, including psychology and neuroscience.

The buildings are projected to open in five years at the soonest.

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