by Amy K. Lavender

The University of West Georgia broke ground Friday on renovation and expansion work that will transform its 46-year-old biology building into a modern center for collaborative learning and research.

UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero in a hard hat sits inside a backhoe or frontloader while Biology Department Chair Dr. Christopher Tabit laughs before him.
UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero and Biology Department Chair Dr. Christopher Tabit share a laugh during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Biology Building renovation and expansion.

Students, faculty and staff attended the event, along with representatives from the Georgia Board of Regents and the state legislature.

“This is a very exciting day for all of us,” said UWG President Dr. Kyle Marrero. “This building was opened in 1972, and today—many years later—we’re on the precipice of a state-of-the-art facility that will serve 70 percent of our students and educate the scientists, researchers, nurses, educators and innovators of tomorrow.”

Construction which is being completed by Whiting-Turner Construction and Cooper Carry Architects, both of Atlanta — will be divided into two phases, according to Whiting-Turner Senior Project Manager Michael Biggs.

“Phase one will expand the building by 14,000 square feet and will be complete in November of this year,” Biggs said. “Phase two will see the renovation of the building’s existing 73,000 square feet and is slated for completion in spring of 2018. We’re all here today to do our part to advance the goal of STEM education here in Georgia. We’re excited to be a part of that, and we’re ready to get to work.”

When finished, the building will feature two 60-seat classrooms, four updated greenhouses, an aquatics lab and outdoor tank, and state-of-the-art teaching and research labs. Biology Department Chair Dr. Christopher Tabit said these spaces will assist faculty in creating an engaging, research-centered atmosphere.

“Our core mission as biologists is to develop, mature and mentor the next generation of biologists,” he said. “We do this through three components: classroom instruction, lab instruction and research experiences.

“Today, with our understanding of pedagogies and experiential learning, these old classrooms simply aren’t equipped to handle these types of instruction,” Tabit added. “So, with this building, we’ll be taking the best from the past and the present and putting them together to deliver our message clearly through all the different learning styles that students bring to our campus.”

The new building also will allow for more joint work by faculty and students by providing four major collaborative research spaces as well as other shared office and research areas.

“Our department realizes the synergistic benefit of collaboration,” Tabit said. “We collaborate with every college on campus. In the new space, multiple faculty members will be sharing joint spaces and doing collaborative work. This is something very exciting in our field, and we’re very thankful for the funds to do this.”

Funding for the project has come from the State of Georgia and private donors. Sen. Mike Dugan said private donations totaling $2 million provided the incentive for legislators to invest the remaining $18.9 million. Dugan said he, Sen. Mike Brass and Rep. Randy Nix had a tough, but manageable, road when lobbying for funding.

“Getting funding from the state is never easy,” he said, “But you all make it a lot easier, because you show how much you’re invested in the project. You put your time and money in, too, and the state sees that you’re invested to make it work.”

An additional $2.9 million will be needed for fixtures, furnishings and equipment. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has included those funds in his proposed 2017 budget.

Posted on January 30, 2017