Work continues on the expansion of the Christine Todd Whitman Science Center at Raritan Valley Community College—made necessary by a renewed focus on “STEM” programs. The $10.2 million project broke ground in October 2014 and is expected to be complete by April 2016.
Sarah Imbriglio, Chair of the Science and Engineering Department, says the expansion will help with classroom fill rates due to the growing demand of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs, but the curriculum itself will not change.
“The STEM program is nothing new. We are not changing. It is what we have been doing for decades ever since RVCC started,” Imbriglio said.
According to John Trojan, Vice President for Finance & Facilities, current technical degrees will be maintained and an electrical utility training program offered seven years ago will once again be offered.
“It was a program in hiatus for two years because JCP&L was not willing to fund the program, however they have found resources to support it once again,” Trojan said.
Of RVCC’s STEM programs, engineering has the highest enrollment at about 250. Biology, in combination with pre-med, pre-pharmacy and general health, numbers 400, and environmental science is a promising major growing over the last five years.
The second floor of the expansion will have three general chemistry labs and one organic chemistry lab. “The downstairs (of the expansion) will be dedicated to a physics/engineering lab, and a versatile room that can be used for either a physics or engineering lab or as a classroom,” Imbriglio said. “There will be two other classrooms, and four faculty offices. The downstairs of the current building will be used for microbiology, biology, anatomy and physiology.”
The labs and equipment in the expansion will look similar to what they have currently and will feature fume hoods, vacuums, compressed air, gas, computers and data collection equipment and software. The classrooms will feature movable tables and chairs and writable surfaces to allow a versatile teaching environment.
No significant changes were made since the groundbreaking, however, a revision was proposed on the number of the general purpose classrooms on the first floor, from four to three, in order to accommodate increased enrollment.
Trojan says the expansion currently stands at 23,500 square feet with a total of $10.2 million cost. It is being constructed by Benjamin R. Harvey Company and designed by Fletcher-Thompson, the same firm that worked on the Bateman Center. Donors have not yet been named, but the RVCC Foundation has made grant applications for the financial sponsorship of the laboratory rooms.
The Building Our Future Bond Act, which authorizes $750,000,000 to construct and equip higher education buildings in New Jersey, provided $7.1 million in funding for the construction. The remaining $2.4 million will come from county support. The school has been planning to expand the building since 2009.
Featured image caption:
The front of the Science Center. Photo by Monica Alvarado.