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Construction just part of building the vision

March 18, 2003

By Hannah Lodwick

Anyone who has spent even a short amount of time on campus has seen the most obvious changes Baylor faces as it completes Baylor 2012. The science building, under construction near the McLane Student Life Center, outsizes the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center by a 4-to-1 ratio, and the parking garage on the corner of University Parks Drive and Dutton Avenue, the first of three to be built, will pave the way toward a completely pedestrian campus.

Though some students remain unaware or apathetic about the construction on campus, Jeff Leach, a Plano sophomore, said the new facilities enumerated in Imperative VII of Baylor 2012 will help Baylor attain its goal of becoming a Tier One university.

'This will make Baylor one of the top universities in the country,' Leach said. 'I truly believe that. New facilities especially, but every part of Baylor is changing for the better. A few years from now people will look at Baylor as one of the top schools.'

Formally titled 'Provide Outstanding Academic Facilities,' Imperative VII says academic excellence depends on superior facilities. The plan outlines construction of the 500,000-square-foot science complex, the development of the Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center and the Academic Success Center and the renovation of the Glennis McCrary music building and the Robert M. and Louise Rogers Engineering building.

As the largest academic center on campus, the Baylor Sciences Building stands as the centerpiece of the new facilities. The Baylor 2012 Web page reports that roughly 17 percent of undergraduate students major in the sciences, and the number of pre-health programs at Baylor has grown 15 percent since 1993.

'The science building speaks to everything because it provides outstanding teaching opportunities; it supports pre-med studies; it provides for great research for new and existing faculty,' David Brooks, vice president for finance and administration, said.

Brooks said the complex will enable science students to combine faith, learning and research through the use of common areas and an atrium. He said the future of science lies in interdisciplinary study, and the facility will reflect that. Among other things, the area will have five multidisciplinary research and education centers on molecular biosciences, drug discovery, water studies, analysis and computing.

'By the design of the building, we create intersections,' Brooks said. 'We'll have the biology and chemistry wings meet where the biochemists are. It's not traditional because most of the new fields are interdisciplinary.'

Critics of Baylor 2012 cite high construction costs and debt as reasons why the building should not continue.

At a cost of $103 million, the science building costs a lot, but Brooks said recruiting a world-class faculty and staff will cost more in the long run.

Administrators believe building the science facility provides a pivotal point in the vision, and they think superior programs will generate grants and foundation money on their own-they just need a building to start.

'Facilities alone don't make you Tier One, but it's difficult to say we can be world class in the facilities we had before,' Brooks said. 'We're getting world class faculty that are looking at us that would never look at us before.'

Rick Creel, assistant vice president for operations and facilities, agreed.

He said that although the construction focus involves 'building the vision,' Baylor will achieve Tier One status by combining all of the imperatives.

'It is not just about bricks and mortar,' Creel said. 'Creating a truly residential campus, providing outstanding academic facilities and constructing useful and aesthetically pleasing physical spaces rely, in part, on the superiority of the facilities in which those activities take place.'

Leach said he believes although facilities impact performance, the most significant aspect of Imperative VII involves the parking garages.

Leach said that parking serves current students, unlike other parts of Baylor 2012 that won't open for several years.

Leach urged student government to concentrate on simple changes _ like bike racks and parking spots -- that benefit current students.

The garage will provide 30,000 square feet of office space for academic, technological and administrative departments.

In addition to the better-known aspects of Imperative VII, the Jeanes Discovery Center promises to bring regional attention to Baylor.

The museum will accommodate traveling exhibits in addition to the Strecker Museum and Ollie Mae Moen program.