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New Chemistry Building tech-savvy for 21st century

Feb. 1, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's new state-of-the-art Chemistry Building opened for classes Jan. 8 and for a public open house and guided tours Jan. 26, attracting rave reviews campuswide and in the community.

Located in the heart of the main campus between Waldo Library and the Dalton Center, the $28.5-million building has classroom technology that includes built-in teaching podiums with document cameras, DVD players and computer projection on dual screens. The technology allows instructors to cater to students who solve problems visually as well as those who solve problems numerically, both benefiting from a deeper understanding of chemistry, says Dr. Michael Barcelona, chair of WMU's Department of Chemistry.

"Students have walked into this building for class over the past two weeks, and they are simply awestruck by what they find. We have the capability to broadcast lab demos and lectures anywhere in the world, and we can receive broadcast materials that will materially improve our ability to deliver modern science education," Barcelona says. "With its focus on visual learning, energy efficiency and safety, this building will be a learning resource for decades to come."

Chemistry alumni attending the open house were equally impressed.

"I've always encouraged my top students to consider Western, because it's a great chemistry program, but the recommendation has always been with an apology for the facilities (in McCracken Hall)," says alumnus Jason R. Frink, a high school chemistry teacher and science team leader for Portage (Mich.) Public Schools. "This is a proud day to be an alumnus of the chemistry department."

Nearly 4,000 WMU students enjoy the classroom facilities each semester. In addition to chemistry, biochemistry, science, engineering and health studies majors, the new labs and classrooms serve students who take chemistry as a general education class or to fulfill other course requirements.

The new instructional facility replaces McCracken Hall, which was built 58 years ago. Construction began in April 2005 on the new three-story, 83,000-square-foot facility and was completed in December 2006. The building includes a large signature artwork in the lobby honoring the role of science in generating new knowledge. The mural, "Knowledge Made Matter" created by Okemos, Mich., artists Amy Baur and Brian Boldon, is based on the Periodic Table of the Elements and is attracting donors who are "buying" elements to support a student assistance fund.

Other features in the building include a main-floor auditorium and two large lecture halls, small conference rooms, instructional laboratories, a student lounge, a teaching assistants briefing room and spaces dedicated for use by student organizations. Faculty offices are in nearby Wood Hall and can be accessed by a second-story enclosed walkway.

The Jan. 26 open house for the new Chemistry Building featured remarks by WMU Interim President Diether H. Haenicke; Trustee Chair Dan Pero; Trustee Emeritus Peter Aseritis, Dr. Thomas Kent, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Loren Lapointe, a WMU senior majoring in biochemistry and Spanish. Student guides also took visitors on 15-minute tours through the building during the afternoon.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
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