Keck Science Department Plans for Second Building

In response to a rise in enrollment,
the William Myron Keck Science Department, the integrated science department of Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Scripps College,
announced that the department will construct a second building and hire more
faculty members.

The Keck Science department has seen a 30 percent growth in enrollment in the past five years. This phenomenon has put pressure on
the department to increase its size. While eight faculty members have been hired in
the last five years, five additional tenure-track professors are slated to be added
in the upcoming years.

Dean of Science at Keck David Hansen,
currently on sabbatical, explained that hiring new faculty will require additional
research space as well. Even now, the space crunch is causing research groups to share most research
labs.

In response, Hansen outlined two
solutions.

The short-term solution involves
renovating the current building and lab modules to make research lab space available
for the five new hires. The plan, with a projected five-year time frame, has been
approved by the presidents of CMC, Pitzer and Scripps: Hiram E. Chodosh, Laura
Skandera Trombley and Lori Bettison-Varga, respectively. Initial
renovations on the modular units began Tuesday, Feb. 3.

The long-term solution is the construction
of a second Keck building.

The physical location for the new
building has yet to be decided upon, but possibilities include Pitzer’s Sanborn parking
lot, Scripps’ parking lot and an additional floor to CMC’s Bauer Center.

According to Hansen, financial figures
are currently unavailable due to the project’s early planning stage.
However, it has been proposed that each of the three host schools raise one-third of the final cost. The timeline is also undetermined.

Two consulting groups have been brought in to oversee the project: Hammel Green & Abrahamson Inc, an integrated architecture, engineering and master planning firm, and SLAM Collaborative, a multidisciplinary planning firm with an expertise in science
facilities. These groups held
a workshop Feb. 3 to gather student input on needs and goals for the second
building.

“I’m excited to see how the new building
can address the problems with the current building, as well as further
integrate Keck into the three host schools,”
Chloe
Sumner SC ’17 said.

Ben Cowan PZ ’18 said that the current physical space does not effectively reflect the community emphasis the science department hopes to achieve.

“As the science program grows at Keck
they need to transition to a bigger space,” Cowan said. “I hope to see new lab facilities and
rooms to hold study sessions and office hours. Currently office
hours are held in hallways and in available space outside professors’
offices.”

Marion Preest, the interim dean, added
that while it is important to respond to current needs, it is also necessary to
look toward future needs.

“Things that came up in the [planning
meeting] were innovative,
attractive learning spaces and social spaces—spaces that are incredibly flexible
and adapt to changes in pedagogy,” Preest said. “It’s hard—maybe impossible—to anticipate how
we will be teaching classes [in the future] … so I think in the forefront of
everyone’s mind is, ‘How do we
make these spaces sufficiently flexible so they will be useful to us in the
years to come?'”

The department hopes to get students involved in the planning process as much as possible through these workshops,
of which two more are planned for this spring.

“The strategy in my mind is to involve
all constituencies, articulate all needs and then triage in terms of what is
actually feasible financially,” Hansen said.

Another
major change within the department is the departure of Hansen. He will be
leaving the colleges after his sixth year in Claremont in order to relocate closer to his
two daughters on the east coast.

“It really is bittersweet for me right
now to think about leaving Keck,”
Hansen
said. “Having all of the
sciences together under one roof is really exciting and was what brought me
here in the first place. I have loved my time here; the colleges are terrific.”

Preest will continue to act as interim
dean into the next year when Hansen departs.

“We are a large department but also a very cohesive department,” Preest said. “We really value our
interdisciplinary nature…and a concern that was
voiced really early on is: How do we maintain that cohesiveness when we have
two buildings? I think the last thing we want to do is say, ‘Chemists
and physicists, go over there, biologists, go here.’”

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