The changing face of MTSU has momentarily shifted back to the center of campus as renovations and upgrades continue the boost to the university’s science education offerings.
MTSU’s older science buildings — Wiser-Patten Science Hall, which opened in 1932 at a cost of $225,000, and Davis Science Building, which opened in 1968 at a cost of $1.7 million — are temporarily closed.
Construction company chain-link fences surround both facilities as they await $20 million in renovations to replace outdated equipment and repurpose space.
Campus Planning officials said they expect Wiser-Patten, with 41,500 gross square feet, and Davis Science, with nearly 75,500 square feet, to reopen in January 2017.
College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer said he and his faculty and staff can hardly wait for improvements to lab and research space as well as student advising.
“With these renovations,” Fischer said, “we will now have what I consider some of the best science facilities in the Southeast and maybe the country, offering students a wide variety of innovative programs, research spaces and learning environments.”
Fischer is about to embark on his fourth academic year as dean of the college, which includes some 4,600 students — as of a fall 2014 count — and 215 faculty members. A year ago, Fischer said he enjoyed knowing the much-needed and long-awaited $147 million new Science Building was about to open.
The dean, who oversees 11 departments — including biology and chemistry in the new Science Building and the signature concrete industry and aerospace programs — wondered aloud how any prospective student with a penchant for the sciences can bypass MTSU.
“If you are a science student in this state, it makes no sense not to come here,” he said. “The programs are growing and getting better and better. The quality of education is better.”
Fischer credited university President Sidney A. McPhee for doing “an amazing job” with this venture and added that he believes the historical aspect of the Davis and Wiser-Patten buildings will be preserved.
The renovations are included in funding for the Science Building project.
“We’re still keeping parts of those buildings that will remind the alumni of the history — their time spent in those buildings,” Fischer said, adding that Wiser-Patten’s famed front steps and the arched original windows alongside them will remain.
The offices on the sides of the building, however, will make way for student space where students “can have discussions, work together and hang out,” he said.
Physics, geosciences, anthropology, others await new space
Changes await a number of departments and programs. For example:
- The Department of Physics and Astronomy will remain in Wiser-Patten, utilizing the second and third floors and first-floor laboratory space.
- The Department of Geosciences, which has been housed in iconic Kirksey Old Main, will move to the second floor of Davis Science Building
- Anthropology faculty and classes in the College of Liberal Arts will gain additional research lab space on the first floor of Wiser-Patten.
“Moving to Davis will enable the department to assign discipline-specific teaching and research spaces to the faculty and students,” said Dr. Warner Cribb, geosciences department chair.
Dr. Shannon Hodge, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, said the change “will be a great boon to our department.”
“We will have room for all of the research collections our archaeology faculty are working on — teaching collections; our archaeology, human osteology and zooarchaeology comparative collections; and all of our field and laboratory equipment,” Hodge continued, adding that the changes are expected to enhance the department’s record of placing graduating anthropology students in jobs and in graduate schools.
The changes also mean that historical archaeology and public history classes will share new lab space with anthropology. Grad students in public history will be using professor Bren Martin’s courses in museum management and historical archaeology assistant professor Katie Sikes’ new public history specialty, supporting ongoing historical African-American excavations at Clover Bottom Mansion in Nashville.
More changes include:
- The College of Basic and Applied Science’ forensic science program lab area will be on the first floor of Wiser-Patten. The MTSU Forensic Institute for Research and Education, or FIRE, will relocate from the Todd Building to Wiser-Patten’s first floor.
- The Center for Environmental Education and MTSU Center for Cedar Glade Studies will be headquartered on the first floor of Davis Science Building.
- A new College of Basic and Applied Sciences advising suite will be featured on the first floor of Davis Science, alleviating tight quarters they’ve experienced in Keathley University Center for months and providing privacy for student and parent meetings.
- Lab space for engineering technology’s third-year mechatronics engineering program is allocated for Davis Science’s first floor.
- Renovations will include a connector between the two buildings, creating a new central entrance, said Jamie Brewer, one of Campus Planning’s project managers. The upgrades will provide Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility within both buildings, including installation of new elevators.
“FIRE is totally out of space, and I have no lab at this time.“This move will provide both.” said noted forensics expert Dr. Hugh Berryman, who directs FIRE.
“Lab space on this campus will greatly facilitate forensic work and student training,” he said.
Berryman has had to travel to Nashville to use the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s lab to analyze forensic skeletal cases.
TMPartners of Brentwood, Tennessee, is the designer for Davis Science Building. Nashville-based Hastings Architecture Associates LLC is the designer for Wiser-Patten and the new connector for the two buildings. Turner Construction Co. of Brentwood is contractor for the entire project.
To learn more about the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and other university programs of study, visit www.mtsu.edu/programs/index.php.
For more information about the college, visit www.mtsu.edu/cbas/index.php or call 615-898-2613.
MTSU’s Science Hall became ready for occupancy in 1931, according to a timeline prepared by the Department of Chemistry. Built for a cost of $225,000, the building was described as “magnificent … and splendidly equipped” at the time. Chemistry and physics were taught on the first floor, home economics on the second floor and biology on the third floor.
Science Hall was renamed Wiser-Patten Science Hall for Drs. J. Eldred Wiser and John A. Patten in 1983.
MTSU’s Davis Science Building, named for the late biologist and former department chair George Davis, was constructed at a cost of $1.7 million in 1967, according to the chemistry department timeline. For the first time, dedicated research laboratories were available at the university.
The increased space was occupied in 1968 and was rapidly and heavily utilized as the department continued to grow. The Department of Biology occupied the first floor and shared classrooms with the Department of Chemistry and Physics, which occupied the second floor.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)