Excitement surrounds UNK unveil of long-awaited STEM building

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Exciting. Remarkable. Impressive. Amazing. Overdue.

Those words were said repeatedly by people in attendance Monday when the University of Nebraska at Kearney unveiled its new STEM building that will open in 2019.

“This building is going to have some remarkable vistas and venues for learning,” said Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “It is a statement about where UNK is as a campus right now. To be able to see this building and the opportunity it gives students, I’m thrilled. It exceeds every expectation I had.”

At Monday’s open house and news conference, UNK students, faculty/staff, community members and media got their first look at the new project. Numerous computer-generated renderings, floor plans and a 3D walk through and fly-by animation showcased the building.

“I describe this as a work of art itself, as the building is an impressive piece of sculpture and forward-looking in terms of design. It is going to transform this campus,” said Tim Burkink, dean of the College of Business and Technology.

“Some of our programs, such as industrial distribution, are among the largest on campus and have been in substandard conditions for some time,” added Burkink, referring to the 62-year-old Otto C. Olsen Building that houses the program. “A new state-of-the art facility like this is going to fuel enrollment and give those students and faculty the modern space they deserve.”

Construction of the million “STEM” building – which has not yet been named – will begin spring 2018, and the project is expected to be complete in fall 2019. It replaces Otto C. Olsen, which was built in 1955 and has been on the state’s capital construction replacement list for more than 20 years.

The 80,000-square-foot building is being built on the west end of UNK’s campus and located northeast of the West Center building and south of Ockinga/Welch Hall.

“This demonstrates UNK’s dedication to the highest quality education,” said Ed Scantling, associate vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management. “The early vibe has been exciting. We have students who want to see where the building is going to be and all the other details so they can picture themselves here.

“I’ve been here since the days of Kearney State College, a long time, and this is truly amazing,” Scantling added. “The improvement in the overall quality of buildings on this campus is a credit to Chancellor Kristensen and what he’s been able to do in a relatively short time.”

Most of the programs housed today in Otto Olsen will move to the new building: construction management, industrial distribution, interior design, aviation, computer science and information technology.

Mathematics and statistics programs are being relocated to the new building from Founders Hall. Physics/astronomy and engineering programs also are relocating from Bruner Hall of Science to the new facility, allowing for an applied “science, technology, engineering and math” – or STEM – focus.

“These departments and the academic programs they deliver will not only lend themselves to interdisciplinary opportunities in unprecedented ways, but will afford students inter-professional preparation for the workforce in Nebraska and points beyond,” said Charlie Bicak, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

Kristensen agreed: “The primary beneficiary of these collaborations will be our students. The benefits to students from this building is transformative for UNK, where we are proud that students come first.”


Writer: Todd Gottula, Director of Communications, 308.865.8454, gottulatm@unk.edu