BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-Birmingham-Southern College
put Science on Display May 9th when it dedicated a new 100,000
square-foot, $24.1 million undergraduate science teaching and research
The Elton B. Stephens Science Center
at Birmingham-Southern will put Science on Display for the
college's students beginning with the summer 2002 term in June.
The state-of-the-art Elton B. Stephens Science
Center, which houses the most current technology in classrooms,
laboratories, and support areas for biology, chemistry, physics,
psychology, and environmental science, will officially open for
student use when the summer academic term begins June 12.
The Stephens Science Center is made possible
through a $15 million gift from Elton B. Stephens and James T. Stephens
of Birmingham, along with contributions from other individuals,
corporations, and foundations. The Stephenses' contribution included
a $5 million challenge gift.
Barbour County native Elton Stephens, a
1932 graduate of Birmingham-Southern and life member of its Board
of Trustees, is chairman of the board and founder of EBSCO Industries
Inc. His son, James Stephens, is president of EBSCO and vice chairman
of the Board of Trustees.
Birmingham-Southern President Dr. Neal R.
Berte said that the Stephens Science Center, which is one of the
largest and most extensive facilities of its kind on a college campus
this size in the country, represents a commitment to undergraduate
"Most schools spend about $14 million
to $16 million on their undergraduate science facilities,"
said Berte. "We're a school in the liberal arts, smaller college
category, and yet we're spending $24.1 million. It shows the commitment
of our Board of Trustees and our faculty."
Designed in consultation with the science
faculty, the facility was planned around the college's science mission
to foster collaborative, hands-on learning between students and
faculty, interdisciplinary connections, and undergraduate research
"We all know that we learn best by
doing, and students will be actively participating in their science
education at Birmingham-Southern," said Berte. "This approach
to learning is facilitated by every aspect of the Stephens Science
The building's focal point is a three-story
atrium area that puts science on display in laboratories
that open onto a common area. Eight student lounge areas will provide
opportunities for students to gather and work collaboratively. More
than 1,100 data port connections dot the facility allowing students
to collect data in the laboratories, store it on a central server,
and continue their work by again connecting laptops to the server
or the Internet from the lounges or myriad other locations throughout
Each faculty member will occupy one of the
25 offices, as well as one of the 25 research laboratories that
will provide more opportunities to work collaboratively with students
on research projects. The center also houses 19 teaching laboratories,
a computer lab, three lecture halls, three classrooms, two seminar
rooms, and a greenhouse, among other areas.
Computer-assisted instruction is available
in the classrooms, which also are wired and include retractable
projection screens that allow presentations from the Internet and
other sources, all controllable by faculty and students from moveable
podiums. The classrooms also include multi-tiered blackboards.\
A nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, funded through a recent
$170,721 National Science Foundation grant, will be housed in the
Science Center for use with investigative, problem-based laboratories
and independent research in the chemistry program.
It's all contained within a flexible design
that can be reconfigured to accommodate changing laboratory and
space needs, existing and future teaching methods, and new technologies,
according to Dr. Clyde Stanton, chair of the college's Division
of Science and Mathematics.
"The facility is an outgrowth of a
program developed by the faculty beginning in 1996 as a new approach
to teaching science," explained Stanton. "The building
allows us to put into action the concepts of interactive learning
experiences for students, faculty interactions across disciplines,
and undergraduate student research.
"The emphasis in learning science has
been shifted to the laboratory and we will use this facility to
focus on inquiry-based experiments. The opening of the Stephens
Science Center ushers in an era of new opportunities for science
education at Birmingham-Southern."
Some 25 percent of Birmingham-Southern students
are pursuing either a science major or minor.
During the planning process, Arthur J. Lidsky,
a facilities planning consultant who has participated in the review
and design of science facilities across the nation including those
at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University,
among others, said "Upon completion, the Elton B. Stephens
Science Center will be one of the finest examples of undergraduate
science buildings in the country."
The center was designed by the architectural
team of Perkins & Will of Atlanta, Ga., Garrison Barrett Group
of Birmingham, and Research Facilities Design of San Diego. The
general contractor was Birmingham's Brice Building Company. Nimrod
Long & Associates Inc. of Birmingham was the landscape architect.
The sciences at Birmingham-Southern will
continue to be highlighted during the 2002-03 academic year with
a series of symposia and lectures involving local, regional, and
national leaders in science and science education.
In June, Birmingham-Southern will begin
a $4.3 million project to convert the Phillips Science Building,
which has been home to the college's science program since 1951,
into a center to accommodate the academic needs of the college's
Division of Humanities. Phase I of the project will be ready for
use by the start of the 2003 spring academic semester next February.
Phase II of the project, scheduled for a later date, will include
similar conversion of the Stephens Science Laboratory Center, which
adjoins the Phillips Science Building.