Union College launches campaign to build a new science and mathematics complex

Excellent professors like Dr. Amy Utt-Rickard will be able to maximize interaction with students in the new facility.

Union alumni around the world—doctors, nurses, PAs, researchers, teachers and many more—will attest to the quality of the science education they received at Union College, not because of the facilities, but in spite of them. Union College is now working to pair its dedicated faculty with a new facility that will reflect and empower their excellence.

“Dr. [Amy] Utt’s anatomy class last semester was so inspiring,” said Emily Severs, sophomore nursing major. “I’d leave class in awe of the intricate beauty of our world. But you would never suspect how exciting studying science is at Union by looking at the ancient classrooms.”

On June 16, Union College officially launched a capital campaign to support the construction of a new science and mathematics complex to replace Jorgensen Hall, home of the Division of Science and Mathematics for 66 years.

Current plans call for an approximately 55,000 square foot, two-story complex to provide laboratory and learning spaces for biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, with additional labs specifically designed for student and faculty research projects.

Why a new science and mathematics complex?
“Several years ago we asked the Union College campus what the next building project should be,” explained David Smith, former president of the college. “Nearly unanimously, the students and employees said we need a new science facility.”

“So many Union students come through the Division of Science and Mathematics, and so many jobs in the future are dependent on having quality education in the sciences,” said Frankie Rose, associate professor of biology and 2002 Union graduate. “This new facility is an investment in the future of Union College and will help us continue to excel in providing quality education that will lead to sustainable jobs in the future.”

More than 60 percent of Union’s student body are in programs requiring a significant number of science and mathematics classes: biology, chemistry, physics, math, pre-med, pre-dental, pre-PA and Union’s two largest majors: nursing and international rescue and relief.

“The science building is a flagship for any college or university campus,” said Tom Lemon, chair of the Union College Board of Trustees. “The building sends a statement to students and visitors about the quality of the learning experience. Union’s science and mathematics professors do an extraordinary job with an aging building and the statistics bear that out. But we can’t expect them to keep up this level of success or attract new students in our current facility.”

The administration at Union College sees trends in education that make science even more important to the institution’s future. “There has been a shift over the past few years in American higher education from more traditional liberal arts majors such as English to professional programs,” Smith explained. “Union has experienced significant growth in professional programs that make very heavy use of science education. That’s part of the future of Union College, and it is vital to invest in and increase that growth.”

A reason for research
As a freshman at Union College in 1998, Rose first fell in love with science while taking Dr. Charles Freidline’s General Chemistry class. After studying pre-medicine, he discovered a passion for research and ultimately earned a Ph.D. researching a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare, ALS-like disease affecting infants.

“It’s hard to describe the rush I get from researching a question that has never been answered before,” explained Rose. “I want to bring that excitement of discovery to my students at Union. A new science and mathematics complex will give us the space for scientific equipment and experiments that will directly involve students in medical research to help make a difference in people’s lives.”

The new building will contain seven research labs large enough to house equipment necessary for faculty to guide students in research projects and for faculty to engage in their own research as well.

Experiential learning
Finianne Umali, a junior pre-med and international rescue and relief major, remembered her first day in Dr. Carrie Wolfe’s Organic Chemistry class last fall. The professor divided the students into groups of three and each team progressed through a workbook, relying on each other, hands-on experiments and guidance from the teacher (when needed) to learn chemical concepts such as hybridization theory.

“We discovered things for ourselves rather than just having a teacher feed us information to memorize and take for granted,” recalled Umali, who plans to become an emergency room physician. “Since we were learning ideas and finding answers on our own, we actually had a much easier time understanding and retaining the concepts presented in class.”

Unfortunately, the classrooms and desks in Jorgensen Hall were designed for the teaching styles of 60 years ago, not the interactive, collaborative learning environment of today’s science classes. “Actually having tables that we can arrange ourselves so that our group can work together, yet have enough space, would be really great,” Umali said.

The new complex will provide completely configurable lecture spaces. Classrooms and laboratory lecture rooms will provide flexibility for all teaching styles and chemistry, biology and physics classes will have dedicated laboratories. Current plans call for a 126-seat amphitheater featuring tiered seating, state-of-the-art presentation technology and a portable fume hood for science demonstrations.

Our Promising Future
To make the new science and mathematics building a reality, Union College has launched the Our Promising Future campaign to raise $14.5 million for the project. “We are blessed to have already raised more than $11 million,” said Kent Thompson, a member of the Union College Board of Trustees and chair of the campaign. “Thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends of Union College, we are more than three-quarters of the way to our goal.”

Of the money raised to date, $7.5 million came from five donors who each gave $1 million or more to the campaign: the Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Union College’s parent organization; Cal and Sue Krueger of Lincoln, Neb; Jerome and Ramona Lang of Lincoln, Neb; Cary and Pamela DeCamp of Kansas City, Kan; and Union Bank and Trust Company in Lincoln.

The Union College family has supported their vote for a new science and mathematics facility, as well. Eighty-seven percent of the Union College internal family—employees and board members—have contributed to the campaign.

The building construction costs will be an estimated $14 million, part of an overall project cost of $20 million, which includes campus infrastructure upgrades, site preparation, landscaping and a new parking lot to replace the lots currently occupying the building site. Local architectural firm Davis Design created the building design and plans and Hampton Enterprises, a local commercial building company, will handle the construction.

The Union College Board of Trustees assigned two subcommittees to manage the project: one to oversee the construction, and the other to study financing options. “Low construction costs and interest rates make this the ideal time to build the science and mathematics complex,” said Thompson, who owns a commercial real estate brokerage firm in Lincoln. “We need to move forward and take advantage of these very significant cost savings.” To that end, the board has chosen to finance the additional funds needed to complete the project beyond what is raised in the Our Promising Future campaign.

Current plans call for groundbreaking in spring 2012 and completion in summer 2013.

“The Union College Board of Trustees, faculty and staff have worked diligently to ensure Union’s preparedness to launch this campaign,” said Thompson. “This project serves as a blueprint for the future of this institution. We cannot, however, realize this vision alone. The time has come for everyone with an interest in Union College to play a part. The cost of this campaign is an investment in the lives of students and faculty members and the many people in Lincoln and abroad served by Union’s graduates as they embark upon their careers.”

To learn more about the project, visit www.ucollege.edu/ourpromisingfuture or call 402.486.2503.

Science and mathematics complex: quick facts


  • Building costs: $14 million
  • Total costs: $20 million (includes infrastructure upgrades, new parking and landscaping)


The two-story, 55,000 square foot complex will cover an area roughly the size of a football field.

The building will be located in what is now a parking area on the north side of campus between Rees Hall (women’s residence), Larson Lifestyle Center and the Don Love Building.

Facility spaces (by the numbers)

  • Laboratories: 10
  • Lab/lecture spaces: 4
  • Classrooms: 3 (including amphitheater)
  • Research labs: 7
  • Seminar rooms: 3
  • Offices: 14

Building features

  • Fully wheelchair accessible
  • State-of-the art HVAC systems to provide clean-air environments
  • Advanced laboratory electrical and mechanical systems to enhance a safe learning environment
  • Many multi-use spaces meeting all educational requirements without needless duplication