The Herff College of Engineering at the University of Memphis is getting its first addition in 50 years with hopes that it will further the university’s goal of becoming a Carnegie R1 institution. The 65,000 sq ft. building will serve as a research facility where students from engineering as well as the College of Arts and Sciences can collaborate on projects. 

“R1 status raises the national profile of the university, which helps grow the university, recruit faculty and retain faculty, and further grow our research efforts,” said Dr. M. David Rudd, president of the University of Memphis. 

University leaders also hope that the new building will help to achieve the goal of awarding 235 engineering degrees by 2035. Carnegie classification is a method of categorizing 

colleges and universities based on what type of degrees they award and what kind of work is being done at the university. R1 status for the University of Memphis would mean that the school would be classified as a doctoral university that does a high level of research. 

After the classifications were updated in 2018, schools must now have awarded 20 research or scholarship doctoral degrees and spent $5 million in total research expenditures during the update year in order to be classified as R1 institutions. 

The University of Memphis currently sits at R2 status, and the administration hopes that the building will help it finally reach the coveted R1. Rudd said that becoming an R1 school will also qualify it for a range of competitive research dollars and related partnerships that it doesn’t currently have. The $40 million addition is also part of the school’s goal to award 235 engineering degrees by 2035. 

Rudd said that the school set this goal because of a need for engineers across Tennessee and the country as a whole. According to the Office of Institutional Research at the University of Memphis, student enrollment at the Herff College of Engineering was ranked 6th overall in undergraduate studies and 8th overall in graduate studies. 

Overall, the STEM building will help the resource base for the university as a whole and will have considerable impact on economic growth and workforce development for the community, Rudd said. 

The new STEM building will be located in the parking lot behind the Herff College of Engineering. The engineering school was built nearly 50 years ago. Photo by the University of Memphis. 

Plans for the new building also came from a growing number of students with limited space for them to conduct research. Abdurahman Abdulhadi, a senior civil engineering major at the University of Memphis, said that the new addition will be a good thing because the college has grown, and it needs the extra space. 

“I know already there are great strides being made through the Herff College,” he said. “But, as the college expands with personnel, students and graduate students, space becomes limited, so the extra space is definitely a well needed thing.” 

Abdulhadi is a member of both the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Engineering Earthquake Research Institute. He said that when building structures for competitions with these clubs, he and the other members have had to build around labs being conducted and graduate student work being done at the time because of the lack of space. 

Once completed, students from both Herff and the College of Arts and Sciences will be able to use the space to collaborate on research endeavors. Some of these endeavors include arts and humanities research in addition to STEM research, Rudd said. 

Funding for the building was originally proposed to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee at the beginning of 2020. Once the pandemic hit, however, he pressed pause on the money to focus on the pandemic. 

Lee reversed course and approved $32 million for the project last June. The school also raised an additional $8 million dollars from local donors to make up the rest of the $40 million total. 

The building will be located near Central and Zach Curlin St. in the parking lot behind the existing Herff College of Engineering. Construction is slated to begin next year and will take 18-24 months to complete, Rudd said.

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