Rocky Mountain College’s new science building will be ready to open its doors in January 2018. The construction process has taken longer than expected, but now the project is on track to be finalized by the start of spring semester.
In an interview, RMC President Bob Wilmouth stated, “The [new] science building will be finished by the end of the year and ready to start classes in January. When I got involved four years ago, it was the number one priority. The building will be used mainly for lab space and it will also house hopefully our occupational therapy program down the road within two years or so.”
Three decades ago, Rocky Mountain College first unveiled the Charles M. Bair Family Center for the Sciences, which has come to be known as the Bair Science Center. The building was constructed in part with the goal of moving the various geology, biology, chemistry, physics, math, and computer science departments out of the Tyler and Eaton Halls. This development was enacted to serve both RMC students and associated staff of the time, who needed more space to teach their classes. The basic idea for Bair Science’s initial construction was to improve the learning experience at Rocky Mountain College in some way. Currently, Bair Science Center is scheduled for new renovation following the construction of the newest science building; the latest project set in motion to enhance the RMC learning experience.
Back in November of 2015, the RMC Board of Trustees officially approved the breaking ground for renovation of Bair Science. In response to the news, Kelly Edwards, RMC’s previous Vice President for Institutional Advancement, stated “Rocky Mountain College is embarking on one of the largest capital projects in its history, one which will provide unparalleled benefits for future generations of students.” As part of the impACT Today, Transform Tomorrow initiative, $12 million was allocated for the renovation and expansion of Bair Science, which includes the new science building. The remodeling will, as stated by the press release, “enhance the classrooms and equipment every RMC student encounters regardless of major or discipline.”
On the discussion of the renovations, academic provost Steve Germic stated, “Some of our core national science programs will have new state of the art facilities that should have a strong impact on the quality of learning that takes place in those courses. Right now, it will strictly be for undergraduate programs. If we expand our graduate programing then one of those programs will probably go on the top floor of the new building.”
Speaking more in-depth on the proposed graduate program, Wilmouth continued, “Dr. Germic has led this charge and we hope within two years to start seeing students for our doctorate of occupational therapy program. We have a few more hoops to jump through that include accreditation, but so far so good. The program will answer a need in the community because there’s a new rehab hospital being built, a collaborative effort between St. Vincent’s and the Billings Clinic, and Rocky is responding to a larger community need.”
Derek Sjostrom, an assistant professor for the geology department, explained how the current plan is to use the new building for housing the geology, chemistry, and biology programs’ labs, while the lecture component of their individual courses will continue to be conducted in other buildings.
“We’re really excited about having classes in there. Every student will be affected because all have to take science classes. It’s going to be state of the art. All the new facilities and equipment are designed to be energy efficient, reliable, and top of the line.” Sjostrom said.
The new building’s construction and the movement of labs into it all falls under phase one, while phase two consists of remodeling Bair Science. When complete, Bair will house physics, environmental science, and the PA program labs. The Bair Science Building will also be expanding to the south and adding primarily new offices for faculty.
“As far as laboratory classes it’s going to be a game changer.” Sjostrom said.
“Lab is a very important part of what we do. And this is going to give the space that not only our students are going to benefit from, but our outstanding faculty as well. It gives them the tools to be able to educate our students with service learning. It’s an extension of the classroom.” added Wilmouth.
Community, staff, and students alike are all thrilled to see what the new buildings has to offer.
“Our faculty is very excited which makes me very excited. It [new building] looks so wonderful from Poly and I’m so pleased that the community has embraced it. Everyday in the community I hear one thing about the science building. And it’s not even done yet.” Wilmouth said.