Last spring, officials at Lafayette College in Easton used the unconventional method of an explosion to mark the groundbreaking for the $75 million Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center.
Thursday evening, to show the construction progress of what officials say is Lafayette’s largest capital project, officials hosted a steel beam-signing ceremony.
Once the 103,000-square-foot-project opens in fall 2019, officials said, it will usher in a new era of integrating critical skills in science, technology, engineering and math while bringing together disciplines in biology, computer science, environmental science and studies and neuroscience.
The increased focus on collaboration and diversity will bring students enhanced learning opportunities to build skills that employers want, officials said.
The college will connect the center to the adjacent Acopian Engineering Center on Anderson Courtyard.
Lafayette will include its Ideal Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the building. The design aims to bring together students, faculty and external partners to develop solutions to real-world problems. A large multi-use area anchored by a flexible maker space will serve as the new headquarters for Ideal.
Additionally, the Integrated Sciences Center will include a new Center for Inclusive STEM Education, with the goal of addressing the need to recruit more women and underrepresented minorities to the field.
Several guest speakers shared their thoughts about the center during the ceremony.
“It’s more than just a building,” said Joann Ordille, assistant professor of computer science at Lafayette. “To me, it is our future, for us, for our students and for the world.”
When she started in her field, Ordille said, the study of computer science was not interwoven into different fields as it is today. She also spoke about how being a woman in the field was a rarity.
She sees the Rockwell Center as a way of building a more diverse community in the sciences.
Tricia Agarwal, a computer science major and member of the Class of 2020, said collaboration is essential and this center will help foster that.
“In real life, solving real life problems, no one person can create the perfect software,” Agarwal said.
Megan Rothenberger, a 2002 Lafayette alumna and associate professor of biology, spoke about how the center could build skills in communication and collaboration, particularly with the flexible lab spaces it would offer.
Also, the biology department is growing and hiring more staff. With a target of underrepresented students in STEM, the environmental programs also are strong and growing, she said.
“This building represents a significant commitment by the college and the board,” said Edward Ahart, a 1969 alumnus and chairperson of the board of trustees. “We see this building as representing a critical turning point, a destination point for our community.”
VISIBLE TO THE COMMUNITY
Alison Byerly, president of Lafayette College, said the college would place the steel beam on the third floor of the center once it is complete.
“It will be positioned in such a way as to be visible to the Lafayette community,” she said.
Lafayette College named the center after S. Kent Rockwell, a 1966 graduate and benefactor of the 192-year-old college who attended the ceremony.
Boston-based architectural firm Payette designed the project. Turner Construction of Philadelphia is the construction firm.