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Tradeline highlights Mercer University science center

The state-of-the-art undergraduate laboratory building designed to attract faculty and accommodate growing enrollment

To help Georgia’s Mercer University attract students and faculty, LEO A DALY designed an undergraduate laboratory building that gives students access to state-of-the-art research environments. Our Les Saunders, AIA, ACHA, LEED AP, about how an inclusive design process resulted in a vibrant new hub for collaboration and innovation on campus. The following is excerpted from the Tradeline article by Tracy Carbasho.

New Science Center at Mercer University Supports Robust STEM Research

Faced with inadequate facilities and insufficient space to accommodate increasing enrollment in its STEM programs, Mercer University in Georgia had to make a decision: Continue using classrooms built in a bygone era and miss valuable opportunities to attract top students and faculty, or construct a new undergraduate laboratory building that offers opportunities for consolidation, interaction, and collaboration. University leaders chose the latter with the establishment of the $44 million Spearman C. Godsey Science Center, which opened in January 2018.

“The original buildings, constructed in the early 1960s, were little more than high school labs at the time,” says Leslie Saunders, Sr., vice president and healthcare market sector leader at LEO A DALY in Atlanta. “The lab spaces were too small for the number of students and did not support current pedagogies.”

Saunders says a contemporary, high-tech undergraduate laboratory building helps Mercer compete with other mid-size Georgia universities that are trying to attract students with an interest in STEM. In recent years, the state has invested heavily in STEM education at the junior high and high school levels, producing more college-ready students who want to pursue careers in these fields. The state also awards the Hope Scholarship to top students who attend institutions in Georgia, resulting in enrollment saturation at major universities and leaving smaller schools scrambling to attract the remaining students. Mercer has approximately 8,550 total students with about 3,400 undergraduates on the main campus in Macon.

The four-story, 143,410-sf center fulfills Mercer’s objectives of establishing a STEM quad where learning and research can grow together symbiotically at a prominent intersection on the main campus. It creates more classrooms; provides innovative, open spaces that accommodate consolidation of departments and minimize silos; and creates opportunities for interaction and collaboration.

“The conversation is not about the building as much as it is about how the building satisfies what the university is trying to accomplish,” says Saunders. “They want to increase participation in and success of their STEM programs.”

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