ST. GEORGE — Local legislators and business owners met with faculty, staff and students at Dixie State University Wednesday to celebrate breaking ground on the institution’s newest building.
The groundbreaking ceremony began at 11 a.m. next to the Fountain Amphitheater on DSU’s campus where the five-story Science, Engineering and Technology building will stand in the future.
Eric Pedersen, Dixie State’s dean of science, engineering and technology, acted as the master of ceremonies, introducing the other speakers and offering thanks to the members of the community and local and state government officials who made the construction of the new building possible.
“As the dean of the college of science, engineering and technology, I have to say I’m probably more excited than most for the construction of this SET building,” he said. “That is because I see the future of what this structure will hold for our students.”
The new building will offer students the opportunity to innovate and explore themes within the topics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by providing a more engaging environment and the opportunity for continued experiential learning. The SET building, Pedersen said, will be the starting place for qualified students who will “educate, motivate and lead” the community.
Tiffany Wilson, a member of Dixie State’s board of trustees, shared her experiences within the flat-roofed building that she took science classes in when she attended the university, a building that is still being used to house science and technology departments.
“I don’t know if it was the fluorescent lighting or the smell of formaldehyde, but either way I didn’t enjoy being in those classrooms,” Wilson said.
The new building, she said, will offer students a place to enjoy the “active learning, active life” promise Dixie State makes to each student by encouraging innovation and supporting them through real-world applications to their lessons.
State-of-the-art resources will help each student in the college fall in love with their field of study all over again, Wilson said. These resources will help engage students in day-to-day activities and encourage them to think outside of the box, lending support to students whose research expands outside the already-discovered boundaries.
“This Science, Engineering and Technology building is going to be something that — when I was a student — I could have never dreamed of,” she said. “I can hardly wait to see what’s coming next because, where innovation and growth are concerned, we are just getting started here at Dixie State.”
Dixie State President Richard “Biff” Williams echoed these thoughts, adding that he doesn’t see the university slowing down anytime soon. Students are beginning to explore what the university can do, and with the highest enrollment increase percentage of any other public university in the state, DSU is striving to meet the needs of every student while supporting faculty and staff.
The only reason construction might slow down is if state funding were to also decrease, but Williams said he’s not too worried.
“The State has been so supportive, and they have really helped us with budget, helped us with building,” Williams said. “I think they are recognizing there is a huge need for students in St. George, and we’re meeting that need.”
Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature appropriated $50 million worth of funds to the university for the SET building and an additional $4.4 million toward the completion of the Human Performance Center.
The SET building is expected to be complete for the fall 2021 semester. The facility will be a total of 120,00-square-foot and is being created by Jacobsen Construction and VCBO Architecture, which are both also worked on the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons.
The building will include 26 laboratories, three levels of outdoor patios, classrooms and an astronomy deck, Derek Payne, VCBO Architecture’s principal architect, said.
The structure will also include a number of features that will “set it apart from other university buildings,” Payne said. They hope to include copper and maybe zinc on the outside of the building, which will develop patina over time. Study rooms will also include wood ceilings, meant to mimic a tree canopy.
“There is such momentum brewing on this campus, and a really large reason boast for Dixie State University,” Payne said.
Other than the SET building, the university is expected to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Human Performance Center Nov. 13 and a grand opening for the Atwood Innovation Plaza Nov. 8. In January, DSU will hold another groundbreaking ceremony for Campus View Suites II, the newest on-campus student housing building.
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