State-of-the-art facility is home to UNK’s industrial technology, cyber systems, mathematics and statistics and physics, astronomy and engineering departments
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – There’s a lot to like about the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s newest academic building.
Just ask College of Business and Technology Dean Tim Jares, who can’t stop talking about Discovery Hall and everything it brings to UNK.
“This building is exceptional in so many ways,” Jares said while standing inside the state-of-the-art facility completed this summer. “You’re engaged from the moment you walk in the door.”
Located on UNK’s west campus, Discovery Hall blends modern and industrial design to create a 90,000-square-foot space that’s inviting, interactive and visually stunning. The layout allows students, faculty and visitors to observe lab and classroom activities, and there’s plenty of natural lighting to keep things bright.
“You can tell they really tried to spoil the students and staff with some of the things they offer here,” said UNK senior Victoria Alvarado, an interior and product design major from Omaha.
Alvarado and a couple friends were hanging out last week in one of several common areas where Lopers can gather to study or relax between classes. She called the new science, technology, engineering and math facility a “huge improvement” over Otto C. Olsen, the 65-year-old industrial arts building where her program was previously located.
“It’s definitely different than the rest of the buildings on campus,” Alvarado said of Discovery Hall. “I like that it’s more fresh and modern. It just feels good to be in here.”
Alvarado’s favorite spot is actually outside the building, where a rooftop garden overlooks the rest of west campus.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ryan Teten is fond of the open floor plan throughout the three-story structure, which promotes collaboration and innovation among the various departments located there – industrial technology, cyber systems, mathematics and statistics and physics, astronomy and engineering.
“Discovery Hall not only provides exciting spaces for our faculty and students to utilize, it embodies the Loper spirit,” he said.
This cross-disciplinary approach exposes students to new academic areas and encourages faculty to share instructional and research ideas that advance UNK’s mission.
“Students seeking an environment with cutting-edge technology will be taught in the newest building in the state. This enables innumerable face-to-face and remote learning possibilities,” Teten said.
Discovery Hall offers “unparalleled” opportunities for current and future Lopers, according to the dean.
“As technology and science advance at breakneck speeds, Discovery Hall will ensure students from Nebraska and beyond are able to keep pace and be eminently prepared for graduation and the limitless job opportunities with which they will be presented,” he said.
Modern classroom and lab spaces inside the building are designed specifically for the hands-on, specialized training needed to fill the high-skill, high-wage STEM positions in demand across the state and country.
Industrial distribution students will learn in a branch simulation lab stocked with products, construction management majors can work with materials on site and interior and product design has its own makerspace and a gallery showcasing student projects. There’s a Redbird flight simulator for aviation instruction and a large, touchscreen video wall purchased for cybersecurity that allows for real-time interaction between people both on and off campus.
“Everything about this building aligns perfectly with the experiential learning initiatives we have as a university,” Jares said.
In addition to benefiting current students, the College of Business and Technology dean believes Discovery Hall will be a major selling point for future Lopers when they visit campus.
“Students don’t come to a university for the facilities alone, but I think this building starts the conversation and allows us to promote the high-quality opportunities we already have in place,” he said.
A ribbon-cutting and dedication event is planned for homecoming week, Oct. 5-10.
Academic programs: Astronomy, aviation systems, business intelligence, computer science, construction management, cybersecurity, engineering, industrial distribution, information networking and telecommunications, information technology, interior and product design, mathematics and statistics, physics.
Construction start: May 2018
Opened: August 2020
Size: 90,000 square feet
Cost: Part of a $30 million project replacing Otto C. Olsen, which was built in 1955 and has been on the state’s capital construction replacement list for more than 20 years.
Funding: The building was paid for by renewal bonds and through state appropriation from LB957, which included the University of Nebraska Facilities Program of 2016. That appropriation directed deferred maintenance funding to facility replacement projects, including the Otto Olsen building.