Skidmore College is preparing its most ambitious project in decades, a $100 million effort to bring its science programs under one roof.
Skidmore College’s life and physical science programs are spread out through five different buildings, some of which have remained largely unchanged since the college moved to its 890-acre campus on North Broadway during the 1960s.
The lack of a focal point for the college’s nine science-related departments can pose challenges for students and researchers. For instance, the health and exercise sciences program does some work in the old wing of the Dana Science Center and other research at the Williamson Sports Center.
“Students in any given day are moving between those spaces and it’s about a 15-minute walk,” said Kimberley Frederick, chairwoman of the chemistry department.
More importantly, however, Skidmore’s science programs have a difficult time forging collaborative relationships because they’re so spread out across the campus. Locating the departments under one roof will do a lot to improve the synergies among departments, Frederick said.
Plans are now in the works to build a $100 million Center for Integrated Sciences to both transform the science classrooms at Skidmore and encourage collaborations across all disciplines. The college will secure bonds for part of the cost and is chasing donations to pay for the rest. The project, expected to get underway sometime within the next two years, will be the small liberal arts college’s most significant construction effort in more than four decades.
“The science problems of our day are really handled at the interface between disciplines and our facilities are designed to inspire and foster this type of work,” said Frederick, a member of the leadership team that helped plan the new building.
About 800 students are enrolled in Skidmore’s science programs, nearly a third of the college’s total student body.
The new building will be located over the footprint of the Harder Hall, which now houses Skidmore’s math and computer science programs, in addition to some of the administrative offices and the economics department. The structure will connect to the existing Dana Science Center, which will be renovated as part of the project.
Construction will add roughly 110,000 square feet of new space to the college and incorporate about 88,000 square feet of existing space. When completed, the center will include 23 teaching labs, 46 research labs, five technology suites and 22 common instrumentation rooms, along with other classroom spaces. The building, according to plans, will include open work spaces, shared computational labs and social areas designed to foster collaboration between students and faculty from various disciplines.
The effort will also bring about 90 faculty members — nearly 40 percent of the faculty — into one building. Skidmore President Philip Glotzbach said the project is part of a realization that students must work collaboratively across disciplines with each other and faculty members.
“This has led us to understand that we could be so much more effective if we create more synergies by bringing every campus department that is engaged in physical or life sciences together in close proximity,” he told Scope, the college’s campus magazine, earlier this year.