By Addison Harbour
The University of Mississippi is looking to add yet another new building that focuses on STEM research (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to its growing home campus in Oxford. The 200,000-plus-square-foot facility will be located in the Science District along University Avenue.
According to Charlotte Parks, Vice Chancellor for Development, the new building is set to cost the university $160 million along with additional costs later for miscellaneous things inside including labs, lab equipment and new forms of technology in classrooms designed for teamwork. The University has already spent $35 million clearing and prepping the land for the state-of-the-art building, but they haven’t met the budget to start the project that was set to break ground in the fall of 2018 and open in 2020, Parks said.
The delay has potentially hurt Ole Miss’s enrollment numbers. Ridge Mathis, now a freshman at Mississippi State in their engineering school said he wanted to come to Ole Miss, but the delay in the STEM building forced him to choose State.
“I wanted to attend Ole Miss and I know the STEM building is going to enhance their engineering program, but there was not a date for it to start or even be completed so I had to do what was best for me and go to Mississippi State,’’ he said.
The STEM building was former Ole Miss interim chancellor Larry Sparks’s “top priority,” according to Parks. Parks is in charge of fundraising for the STEM building, and they have set a new deadline for funds.
“The state of Mississippi issued bonds of $40 million for the construction of the building, and we have $26.5 million in pledges. Our goal is to raise an additional $38.5 million by Dec. 31 of this year,” Parks said.
Parks said once the university reaches that goal, they will bid out the construction contract to the STEM building.
“The goal is that 18 months after the contract is awarded and shovels break the soil, the building will be completed,” Parks said.
The STEM building will not only have an impact on campus at Ole Miss, but an impact on the state of Mississippi. Maurice Eftink, a retired professor from Ole Miss has been one of the lead designers and heads of the STEM building.
“Projections from such agencies as the National Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that job openings for individuals with STEM degrees will grow at a significantly faster rate than the average for all occupations,” Eftink said.
According to STEM education data, all areas of STEM will experience job growth through 2020. Over a 10-year period (2010-2020) the projected job growth for all science and engineering jobs was 18.7%; environmental life scientists, 20.4%; physical scientists, 12.7%; computer/mathematical scientists, 23.1%; engineers, 10.6%; social scientists and psychologists, 18.5%.