Krueger Center officially opened

Even when angry skies drove the ceremony indoors, more than 200 employees, students, alumni and friends of Union College found reason to celebrate as the new Krueger Center for Science and Mathematics was officially opened with a ribbon cutting on May 8.

The event, which brought together many of the people who supported the Krueger Center project with time, energy and financial resources over past 10 years, featured remarks from former Union College president David Smith, Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska Lavon Heideman, and lead donors Calvin and Sue Krueger.

Teachers and students began using the Krueger Center in early March when the doors opened to the 57,000 square-foot facility that features ample, flexible space and state-of-the-industry technology for lectures, lab exercises and research. Attendees to the event were able to wander the building and see lab and classroom demonstrations by faculty and students.

The building has become the new home of the Division of Science and Mathematics, replacing 66-year-old Jorgensen Hall, a building that had outlived its usefulness. “The new building is a lot better,” said Keith Wade, a junior physics major. “We now have a dedicated physics lab and an engineering lab, which is great. The building has the potential to greatly expand the physics department.”

The sentiment is echoed throughout the ranks of science, math and health science majors—nearly 60 percent of the student population.

A home for research

“Our research projects were spread out all over Jorgensen Hall, wherever we could cram them in,” said Bradley Carlson, a junior biology and pre-med major who has been heavily involved in two original research projects over the past couple of years.  “The Krueger Center has seven labs dedicated just to research.”

Carlson has spent this school year working with a team of faculty and students creating early detection tests for certain types of cancers using carbon nanotubes. Last school year he worked on a team to develop a less expensive, quicker DNA test for certain genes to be used as a collegiate training tool.

The new building includes plenty of space for a variety of learning styles and growth. Two configurable classrooms allow for group learning and many other activities. A total of five labs and two lab and lecture spaces are dedicated to biology, five laboratory and lecture spaces to chemistry, and three labs to physics and pre-engineering.

Technology improves learning and safety

Chemistry professor Richard Clark sees lots of advantages in all the technology built into the new building. From software that allows each teacher’s tablet computer to automatically transmit images and video to a classroom’s projection system to a central vacuum system that provides a vacuum port at each lab station in all the chemistry laboratories, technology will improve the learning and safety of science classes.

“Our hood capacity is much better now,” Clark explained. “Sometimes hoods become bottlenecks because everyone needs to conduct a lab experiment under a ventilation hood. That won’t happen any more.”

And improved ventilation also improves safety. “Each hood has flushing alarms,” he continued. “If levels of certain chemicals get too high, the air in the entire room is flushed out either through the hood or the through the ceiling ducts. It’s as though the whole lab is in a hood.”

A comfortable place to learn

Claude Iradukunda, a freshman pre-engineering major, can often be found poring over an assignment in one of the three study areas in the new building. He likes a lot of things about the Krueger Center—the large classrooms, the labs—but he especially likes the study space. “It’s quiet and comfortable,” he said. “Most of the time I prefer to study here instead of the dorm.”

“It’s a place students like to study,” Clark said of the study spaces, including the one right outside his office. “They like to use the whiteboard to work out problems together and it’s nice that I can just pop out there and answer questions.”

Funding the future

The grand opening event also honor the donors who gave the $14.9 million to build the Krueger Center. A number of lead donors were on hand including Cal and Sue Krueger; Jerome and Ramona Lang; representatives from Union Bank and Trust; and representatives from Union’s parent organization, the Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

“God has blessed Union College with this new facility,” said John Wagner, president of Union College. “The generosity of the many donors who made the Krueger Center possible is a testament to the impact that Union College has on the lives of students, alumni and our community. This building will allow us to provide an even stronger academic experience for our students for years to come.”

As a scientist, Clark agrees that the building demonstrates a strong commitment to the future of science education. “It’s not just talk,” he said. “We are here experiencing it now and enjoying it very much.”