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, March 27, for their first look at classrooms, labs, gathering spaces and the Au Bon Pain café.
The soft opening event signaled the beginning of a new era of interdisciplinary education, cutting-edge technology 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,” he said. 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.” 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 at other colleges and universities. “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. During spring term, the building is the host for 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.
The Golden Ratio Wall The Science Center south atrium features a spiral representation of the Golden Ratio comprised of 2,360 images capturing the history of the College since its founding. The Golden Ratio is approximately 1.618 to 1 and a Golden Rectangle has sides in this ratio. Here the spiral sits atop a nautilus shell. Approximations to the Golden Ratio appear throughout nature, art and science, a unifying principle that connects diverse objects and concepts. The structure of the Parthenon, for example, is very nearly in Golden Ratio proportions.
The Golden Ratio is an ideal symbol for the Science Center, where North Central College crosses disciplinary boundaries and draws inspiration from connections between the liberal arts and sciences, business and entrepreneurship, education and health sciences. A kiosk allows individuals to search by decade or category, email images from the wall, locate an image and/or sign the virtual guestbook.
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. 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.”
In the lobby, 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 images throughout the history of the College. “This wall is very special,” he said, while searching for other images from his time on campus.
As the 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.”
What students are saying about the Science Center...
Jon Stroede ’19, exercise science major
“I’ve been here a lot already, this is my go-to spot. I average three to five hours here every day studying. The food (at Au Bon Pain) is great, I grab something to eat before I study. You almost always run into someone you know. The classroom spaces are open and it’s easy to see everything.”
Alex Benson ’17, economics major
“I have two classes here and it’s a great place to study. You can leave your stuff out and go grab something to eat. There are great nooks and crannies to hang out.”
Jada Sharp ’19, biology major
“I live in Res/Rec so this is so much closer for studying and going to class. I have two classes here, Personality Psychology and Foundations of Exercise Science. The televisions in the classrooms are nice for video during lectures. There’s no limit to what professors can do in this building.”