The University of Memphis held a groundbreaking ceremony outside the Herff College of Engineering on Oct. 22 to mark the beginning of the construction of the new STEM Research and Classroom Building.
The ceremony was brief and dedicated to all faculty, staff, administration, and donors who helped fund the project.
The building intends to be a step forward in advancing its research efforts, following the Carnegie R1 classification the University received last year.
"It's long overdue," said University of Memphis President Bill Hardgrave. "The status puts us among the top universities and research in the country. To sustain that and build upon that, we have to have additional research space, and this building is critical."
Plans for the building were submitted in May 2020 and soon approved and funded by the state. The building will accommodate all current and future needs for engineering, research, and its students.
The project expects to help the University reach new heights in research, boost student recruiting, and increase faculty.
"I am thrilled to be here for the groundbreaking today, but as thrilled as I am for the groundbreaking," said President Hardgrave. "I am going to be more thrilled when we're here to cut the ribbon."
Program host and Interim Provost Abby Parrill shared what students can expect in 2024.
The building will consist of two floors. The first floor will hold numerous labs, some of which will accommodate senior projects and research efforts. The second floor will have a configurable classroom that can transform into large or small classroom spaces.
"A lot of flexibility has been built into the space so that we can figure one way now, but the engineers, the designers, and architects really spent a lot of effort to think about the potential adjustments that we may need in the future," said Parrill.
A primary concern addressed in the new building is the research space and capabilities. Research spaces were limited in the old engineering building and became a significant complaint.
"One of the research spaces used before the proposal of the building was a bathroom," said Parrill.
For this reason, some labs will be designated for specific reasons, such as research for the Institute for Intelligence System.
Mentoring options will also be available for students based on research and projects.
The Herff College of Engineering also welcomes a new dean, Dr. Okenwa Okoli, joining the Tiger family in January 2023. He plans to expand the program and work more closely with the Memphis community.
"I feel very welcomed," said Okoli. "I'm going to grow the program. What I see now has been highlighted before. I've seen a very diverse population. I see the community of Memphis, and being an engineer, we've got to do some more magic to make things go. I would love to work with the students and Memphis community leaders."
As the University of Memphis embarks on one project, another is in the works. After completing the new STEM building, the Herff College of Engineering plans to complete a series of renovations across campus. A formal plan will be submitted before the end of this year.
These renovations will update numerous buildings on campus, including the Fogelman College of Business and Economics.
The STEM Building is estimated to be completed in early 2024.