STEM Center Named for Betz

The Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved the naming of the University of Central Oklahoma’s STEM building in honor of current university president Don Betz.

“President Betz is a tremendous advocate for the advancement of higher education in Oklahoma, nationally and internationally,” said Mark A. Stansberry, chair of the RUSO Board of Regents, in a press release. “It is appropriate that future generations of students will know his name and will learn in the very building that is a symbol of his lifetime of work.”

The full name of the building will be the Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center. The building has been under construction since February 2017, and its grand opening will be on November 14.

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.

Nobles said the university requested the name change in a letter to the RUSO Board of Regents, who oversees the naming of building for the six universities they govern.

UCO President Don Betz said the board made the decision on Sept. 21. They came to campus on Sept. 24 and invited him to attend a meeting.

“I walked to the meeting and they have two drawings of the new building. But instead of just the building, there are new signages that have my name on it,” Betz said. “I’m surprised, [I] didn’t expect it [and] didn’t look for it to happen. Normally the board won’t do it until you are not here anymore.”

Betz said when he became the president, he submitted the idea to name the Forensic Science Institute in honor of former UCO President Roger Webb. Due to RUSO generally not naming buildings after individuals until after their departure, their decision to name the building after Betz before he retires in June 2019 is unusual.

“I’m honored have my name on the building, but for that particular building, it’s a double honor,” Betz said.

Betz said the building reflects UCO’s strong undergraduate research program. In addition, he said STEM disciplines are highly important to the future development in the economy of the state and the metro.

The Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center will serve as an interdisciplinary hub for the university’s various science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

“Demand is increasing for STEM related jobs, so the demand is increasing for those degrees. This building will allow the university to teach more students in these fields in a technologically-advanced facility,” Nobles said. “Also, since many STEM majors will convene in the building, it creates an interdisciplinary learning environment that will benefit all students.”

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

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