Bucks President Unveils New STEM Building


Hal Conte

A $17.5 million science center was opened at Bucks’s Newtown campus just one week before the start of the spring semester, highlighting the college’s commitment to promoting STEM fields and drawing a crowd of over 100 alumni and students.
“Today is a very special day for Bucks County,” said Stephanie Shanblatt, College President, in remarks accompanying the opening. “While I am personally gratified, I am most excited for our students. By putting science on display, we demystify this discipline.”
Students, teachers, and administrators who were present at the event had similar thoughts. “It looks fantastic, seeing the progress,” said Matthew Timek, a business major who had watched the building’s gradual construction while taking classes.
Robert Quinn, an electrical and computer engineering major, also praised the building’s design. “I think it looks nice, it’s refreshing,” he remarked.
Interim provost Lisa Angelo, who is also a math professor, expressed her satisfaction with the building’s completion. “I can’t tell you how rewarding this is. Everyone who has a stake in this building has a hand in its progress,” she said in a speech marking the building’s opening.
In an interview, she explained how professors had a role in the design of the facility. “It was truly a collaborative effort. Faculty meeting and staff were in nearly every meeting.”
Several rooms in the science center were expressly built with collaborative work and group projects in mind. “There is one room that has flexible movable furniture and six different screens. You could have the same thing on all six screens or different things on multiple screens,” Angelo said.
The 43,000 square foot building is devoted mostly to lab space,
with almost no traditional lecture areas. However, the building does include several gathering areas for students on the upper floors.
The most striking feature of the main hall is a large, vertical garden of plants. Called the “living wall,” this garden is irrigated from behind, and is meant to draw student’s interest to the sciences – the primary focus of the new building as a whole.
“Our labs were fifty years old, they were dark, they were uninviting. You were talking about biology, and you were in a room with no window,” Angelo explained.
Razin Karu, the President of the BCCC Student Government Association, had a similar message. “It makes a statement about the important things we do here,” he said, referring to the science center.
“They opened this to the outside so we get a sense of the greater whole, the nature there,” he continued, describing the building’s extensive use of glass both inside and out.
John Strauss, president of the Bucks County Community College Federation of Teachers, Thomas Skiffington, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, and Charles Martin, a Bucks County Commissioner, also made speeches.
“My father cast on to me at a very young age the beauty and elegance of science. With this new building…we can inspire future generations of innovators and problem solvers,” Shanblatt told the audience.
“With this building, as a centerpiece of the campus, we invite the whole of Bucks to share in the excitement of science.”
Shanblatt later explained that the old building could not fit the ever-growing enrollment in science classes. This has been reflected in the use of portable classrooms to accommodate science courses.
“We did not have the capacity to meet the demand until now. It will allow us to meet the current demand, as well as expand our classes in the future.”
The college’s plan appears to already be working. “I come from a science background, so this is really inspiring me,” said Sven Prichard, a former fine arts major. “I may have to go back to the lab.”