World-Herald News Service

KEARNEY, Neb. — The University of Nebraska at Kearney will bring together the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math) in a $30 million classroom building set to open in fall 2019.

“We could have built four big silos, but this is going to bring everyone together,” UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen told a gathering this week that gave students, faculty and community members a look at plans for the 80,000-square-foot building for the West Campus.

The building has been on the drawing board for almost 20 years and will replace the 1955 Otto Olsen Building that is closer to the east end of the UNK campus.

Tim Burkink, dean of the College of Business and Technology, said there are many reasons he’s excited about the plans. He said students will be exposed to a variety of disciplines because of the classes that will be taught there. The opportunity for faculty from different colleges to collaborate also is exciting, Burkink said.

“Who knows what will come of bringing the different departments together? It’s breaking down the silos,” he said.

Charles Bicak, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, echoed Burkink’s comments about teaching various disciplines under the same roof.

He said the Health Science Education Complex built by the University of Nebraska Medical Center on the west end of UNK’s campus brings together a variety of medical and health care disciplines, and students and faculty say that approach is working.

Kristensen said students, faculty and staff all contributed to the STEM structure’s design. Burkink said one feature calls for some classroom walls to be clear glass so students passing outside the room will be able to see what’s being taught inside.

Kristensen was a member of the Nebraska Legislature nearly 20 years ago when UNK officials first asked for state support to replace the aging Otto Olsen Business And Technology Building.

“In 1998, the chancellor came to me and said, ‘We’ve got to get Otto Olsen replaced.’ It’s been worth the wait,” Kristensen said.

Final plans for the 80,000-square-foot building have been in the works since January and are nearly ready for bid, UNK architect Alan Wedige said.

“This is an exciting building with collaborative space, blended space and shared space,” Wedige said. “It will definitely be a building buzzing with activity.”