STEM Building Opens for Students

The University of Central Oklahoma’s newest building, the Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center, had its grand opening on Nov. 14 with opening comments, a ribbon cutting and self-guided tours.

“It’s the building where the inside is going to capture the hopes and dreams of generations to come,” said UCO President Don Betz. “It’s a wonderful opportunity created by real people in real time.”

The building has been under construction since February 2017. The Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved naming it after Betz in early October.

The building will add 56,000 square feet of learning space for science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. The new space is expected to allow increased enrollment for these programs.

According to Wei Chen, UCO College of Mathematics and Science dean, the building is the first interdisciplinary education facility in Oklahoma.  It is also the only building in the state with an emphasis on STEM undergraduate research.

“The building is also a place where faculty, staff and students work side by side on cutting edge research,” Chen said.

According to Chen, the Betz STEM building provides research and teaching spaces for faculty and students from all STEM disciplines.  It is the home of the Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Education and Research (CIBER) and the Center for Research and Education in Interdisciplinary Computation (CREIC), as well as a place for collaboration between forensic science and STEM disciplines.

“The supercomputer, [that] we call Buddy here, can be accessed by people at educational institutions across the state for high-performance computation in all disciplines in STEM,” Chen said.

The building provides integrated research and teaching spaces with several laboratories across disciplines. A computational classroom will be used for various classes.

“The Betz STEM building is also for the future, the dream and imagination of our STEM faculty and students,” Chen said.

According to Adrienne Nobles, assistant vice president of University Communications, the cost of the building is about $24 million, which is financed by UCO College of Math and Science facility fees and donations from the Ignite the Future of STEM campaign.

“The building is complete. Our building contractor may still be on-site to make minor adjustments,” Nobles said. “Classes begin in the building in the spring semester. Students can [now] study in any of the common areas like the lobby.”

Nobles said STEM classes have been and will continue to be held in several buildings across campus, such as Howell Hall, Coyner Health Sciences, the Forensic Science Institute and the Math and Computer Science building.

According to Nobles, the demand for STEM related jobs is increasing, therefore the demand for those majors has also increased. The STEM building will allow UCO to educate more students in these fields in a technologically-advanced facility.

The building will also help UCO to fulfill its mission as Oklahoma’s only metropolitan university and to become the powerhouse of the STEM workforce in the state, according to Chen.

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