With $20.8 million in its pocket, California Lutheran University opened up a capital campaign to the public to fund new lab space for biology, chemistry and exercise science students.
The campaign is more than two-thirds of the way to its $30 million goal, and construction is expected to begin in early 2018, said CLU President Chris Kimball.
Eight of the 20 new labs in the center for the sciences will be designated for student and faculty research in areas like biomechanics, organic synthesis, marine biology and neuroscience.
Connected by a bridge walkway to the current Ahmanson Science Building, the 47,000-square-foot design also includes labs for teaching, collaborative spaces and faculty offices.
“That focus will be heavily on lab space,” Kimball said, adding that unlike other regional universities, the college isn’t geared toward graduate degrees and doctorates in the sciences.
“We’re training undergraduates, but undergrad training has changed a lot, especially for smaller campuses like us. That requires more lab teaching space.”
Access to labs for research and experiments positions students to apply for advanced degrees in the sciences, move directly into tech and biotech fields, or attain management roles that require a high degree of scientific literacy, he said.
Once the new building is complete, the existing building will also get some upgrades.
Keeping the spaces close together “enables us to do more interdisciplinary work, kind of blur the lines between them and be less siloed,” said Michele LeBlanc, a professor of biomechanics at the university. “Proximity helps that.”
Students are also recognizing and responding to growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in the region.
“It’s a newer way of doing science that we’re responding to, as well as a tremendous demand from students,” Kimball said. “The last couple of years, more students come in as freshmen wanting to major in science than any other areas, and that didn’t use to be the case.”
A feasibility study in 2013 identified around $7 million in donor interest for the project at the same time, said Kristine Calara, associate vice president for advancement.
Originally on a 5-7 year timeline, the campaign has been shortened since the university achieved Hispanic Serving Institution status in early 2016, Calara said. A $4.63 million HSI grant will help fund the renovations, after helping the campus expand its staff and pay student research fellowships and internships, among other programs.
With a few proposals to key prospective donors still pending, the campus opened the campaign up to public donors, including naming opportunities and inclusion on a donor wall for gifts of $500 or more.