Brilliant Future

North Central College cuts the ribbon on world-class Science Center

Mar 27, 2017

A crowd of more than 200 people representing North Central College, the community and the region streamed into the new Science Center at 8 a.m. Monday morning for their first look at classrooms, labs, gathering spaces and Au Bain Pan café.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony signaled the beginning of a new era of interdisciplinary education, cutting-edge science and facilities for collaboration.

“With this facility, North Central will be a college of destination for STEM education in the region, which is comprised of robust research and technology businesses, healthcare institutions and some of the best school districts in the country,” said President Troy D. Hammond.  “We can be—and will be—the source for the best scientific thinkers who are trained with a sound liberal arts education and well prepared to be both citizens and leaders over their lifetime.

“Today, we cut the ribbon on what I truly believe is the premier, multi-disciplinary science center in the region.”

On hand to celebrate the occasion and speak to the crowd were Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, Ill. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster. All offered their congratulations and praised North Central for its foresight and investment in preparing future leaders in STEM disciplines.

“I’m excited to share this moment with you,” said Foster. “You’re putting the needs of your students first. Thank you for making STEM education a priority for your students and the entire community.”

Sanguinetti pointed out that the demand for scientists and engineers is out-pacing growth in other professions. “We need more students in these career fields to keep our state competitive,” she said.

“Going forward I can’t wait to see what happens in this building—cures for diseases, new forms of energy … I’m excited to imagine how life will change because of this building,” added Chirico.

[Photo, from left: Kelsey LaMartina ’18, Ill. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, President Troy Hammond, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, Professor of Chemistry Jeff Bjorklund]

Planning began in 2008 with discussions about the needs of the faculty and collaborative methods for teaching. Research continued with tours of academic science facilities. “We had to develop a vision for the sciences at North Central,” said Jeff Bjorklund, professor of chemistry, and faculty shepherd for the project, speaking at the event.

That vision finally became reality when the doors opened Monday morning. During spring term, the building will be the site of 140 courses representing all academic disciplines. Math and psychology faculty moved in during the week of March 20 and the rest of the science faculty will move after Commencement.

Staff tour guides escorted attendees throughout the building. Mike Hudson, vice president for operations, explained why there are kitchenettes and gathering spaces on each floor and Au Bon Pain off the lobby: “Students said, if you give us a reason to stay, then we'll stay all day.” Gathering spaces throughout the building offer unique furnishings and campus views for studying and group meetings.

Biochemistry major and future pharmacist Kelsey LaMartina ’18, who participated in the ground-breaking ceremony in May 2015, was on hand for the opening of the building, as well. She told the crowd, “We’ve experienced and loved the old science center and even made it our second home. Over the past two years I think I’ve spent more time there than I have in my own dorm room. But I speak for everyone when I say we’re excited to make this building our new home. Here, students can enjoy the perks of a small college while getting a world-class education in science.”

Alumni who attended the event recognized that North Central was entering a new era in the sciences.

“This doesn’t even relate to when I was in school,” said Linda Allison ’65, a retired elementary school principal.

Larry Roessler ’60 took a phone photo of the late Rev. George St. Angelo ’47, whose image appears on the lobby’s Golden Ratio wall, composed of 2,360 College images. “This wall is very special,” he said, searching out other images from his time on campus.

As the first morning’s first scheduled classes came to an end, Bjorklund reflected on teaching an organic chemistry in the new computational classroom. It has round tables that allow faculty to “float” throughout the room and for students to face each other rather than forward. “The goal of the class is to have the students work together in groups,” he said. “I’ve already taught in a way I couldn’t before.”