Two years before the United States recession struck in 2008, Eastern Mennonite University began working on its biggest and most expensive project. The goal was to raise $22 million dollars to build a new science building and renovate the current Suter Science Center. But earlier this month, President Loren Swartzendruber and Vice President for Advancement Kirk Shisler announced to the EMU Student Government Association that a “Plan B” would be implemented since only $6 million has been raised to date.
Dr. Roman Miller, who has been working with the Science Campaign Committee on the project, explained that the original plan called for a new building to house additional labs and office space plus an eventual renovation of the current science center for the nursing program.
“It was to be functional, look nice, be a good means for recruiting, and allow us to work in our programs with what we need,” he said.
These original goals have not changed, but the reevaluated approach in the Plan B calls for renovating the science facilities rather than building a new center at this point. This would allow EMU to move forward with the upgrades using the actual funding that is available.
“EMU maintains a conservative fiscal policy and over the long-term that means that EMU is going to be more healthy financially than if we borrow money we cannot afford to borrow,” said Shisler. He stressed the effect the downturn in the economy had had on the fundraising project as donors and foundations slowed down in their giving to brick and mortar projects like the new science building.
A new Design Concept Committee of architects, faculty, and a student representative will commence meeting between now and January to explore the renovation plans for the Suter Science Center. In February of 2013, updated drawings of the project will be made in order to begin working on it in 2014 or 2015. Additional fundraising will be done with the goal of raising an additional $2 million. And in the last 18 months before the renovations begin, students will be formally invited to get involved through SGA.
While working on the largest capital project in EMU history, the economic downturn has slowed fundraising efforts. But project management has responded conscientiously by modifying the plans to fit current needs and funding.
“It help us, reminds us again to live within our resources,” said Dr. Miller. “We have to use the income that we have. We cannot go into debt to build buildings. We need to be fiscally responsible.”
The Campaign Steering Committee, the Science Commission, the Board of Trustees, the development staff, alumni and the newly forming Design Concept Committee continue to move forward on the project.
“We have not given up on our long-term vision to expand Suter Science Center in meeting the need to make improvements,” said Vice President Shisler. “The science project is still our number one capital project, however our hope is that as we bring this project to completion over the next two years, it will enable us to turn our attention to other needs at EMU.”
Biology student Huda Mansoor shared her hopefulness over the possibility of the new plan completing during her time at EMU.
“It is so exciting, and I would love to have some classrooms with windows so we can get some sunlight.”
Jenna Bock, Contributing Writer