The University of West Georgia gathered for the official grand opening of its Biology Building expansion and renovation Friday, Sept. 14, hosting campus, community and valued partners for a celebratory reception followed by a tour of the enhanced learning center.
The grand opening represents a major renovation and expansion effort that began in 2017, adding nearly 18,000 square feet to the facility originally built in 1972. The updated 90,000-square-foot building is now home to a state-of-the-art, technology-enhanced learning environment.
“The project represents a multi-year culmination of teamwork in the planning, design and construction phases surrounded by a steadfast focus on the future success of our students,” said UWG President Kyle Marrero at the ceremony.
Planning for the renovation began in 2015 when the biology program was the university’s largest and fastest-growing academic program with more than 800 students in full- or part-time majors.
Since that time, the biology program’s enrollment has grown to 914 students and confers approximately 110 undergraduate degrees each year. Additionally, the program serves as a pipeline for the university’s nationally recognized nursing program and is a critical path for many other programs, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors.
“The success of this project is essential to our continuous efforts to improve the retention, progression and graduation of our students,” Marrero said. “It supports our goal to become the best comprehensive university in America while ensuring our academic programs are aligned to prepare our students for a crucial role in Georgia’s current and evolving workforce.”
Marrero expressed his gratitude to Gov. Nathan Deal and his staff for including the project in his recommended budgets, as well as the invaluable role of local legislators in securing state funding.
State Representative Randy Nix praised the investment from UWG and donors.
“This was a team effort,” Nix said. “I commend the leadership team here at the University of West Georgia for their vision and the donors who made it happen.”
State Senator Mike Dugan commented on the scale of the project.
“Whether you plan to be a nurse, medical student or biology teacher, it’s important,” Dugan said. “All of those people come through this building. The impact it makes on the university, the region and the state is huge.”
Marrero also expressed appreciation to the UWG Foundation and the donors who helped bring this critical project to fruition, particularly Steve Adams, CEO of Southeastrans Inc.
“We are grateful to Steve for his leadership and for serving as co-chair of the first capital campaign in the history of UWG,” Marrero said. “His support will provide the foundation for students preparing for careers in STEM, nursing and other health care professions.”
College of Science and Mathematics Dean Dr. Lok Lew Yan Voon praised educational innovations included in the renovation as contributing to UWG’s thriving, active learning environments. These include Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classrooms and collaborative research space.
“Active-learning classrooms represent a progressive element in higher-education – and not just in the United States,” Lok said. “Ten years ago, McGill University in Canada added 16 such classrooms, and the University of Hong Kong built a new campus with 15 TEAL classrooms. Now, the University of West Georgia houses the most recent one.”
Another innovation Lok cited was the collaborative research space, which will promote more robust research experiences for undergraduates.
“We are so excited about more and better learning experiences for all students at UWG,” Lok said. “Research for undergraduates is an example of a high-impact practice and is a cornerstone of our mission in the College of Science and Mathematics.”
For more information about learning opportunities in biology at UWG, contact the Department of Biology at [email protected] or 678-839-6547.