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S&BS Renovation Planning

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing with regard to the upcoming renovation of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (S&BS) Building, a project which is tentatively scheduled for January through mid-August, 2014.

Since 2004, UNCW has seen the addition or significant expansion of 14 major buildings, exclusive of student residences, representing more than 780,000 gross square feet of space.  After a decade of dramatic increases in our physical plant with construction projects at every corner of the campus, we are entering a period with no new approved building projects and an uncertain prospect for such construction even as we plan continued growth in our enrollment and academic programs.  Because of a special provision from the state government, UNCW has funds to complete a previously announced partial renovation of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Building.  As the last project in the foreseeable future, we must give special consideration to the S&BS renovation, making the most of the opportunity to enhance our academic facilities.

Two months ago, we formed a committee of faculty and staff to examine the university’s strategic needs for the next 5 to 10 years and asked that group to recommend ways to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the S&BS renovation to address those needs.  Three immediate problems the committee sought to address were documented shortages in teaching laboratories, faculty research laboratories, and faculty offices, problems we are confronting now, despite the past decade of unprecedented physical growth.  Mindful of a System-level performance measure that requires UNCW to increase our number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates and a new UNC strategic plan (“Our Time, Our Future:  The UNC Compact with North Carolina, Strategic Directions for 2013-2018”) that also calls for an increase in the number of STEM graduates, the committee recommended that the S&BS renovation focus on STEM areas.

In reviewing the university’s strategic needs, the committee also recommended creating a physical expression at the center of campus of UNCW’s commitment, as stated in the institutional mission statement, to “distinctive student involvement in faculty scholarship” and mentoring undergraduates in research and scholarly activity.  Such a “STEM Center” would serve as a symbol of the university’s commitment in this area.

The renovation project also has provided us with opportunities to be innovative by repurposing space in non-S&BS buildings and by embracing shared services, thereby reducing infrastructure costs by consolidating functions.

The resulting plan, which has been endorsed by the Chancellor and Cabinet, calls for the creation of a STEM Center in the former S&BS building, establishing a new home for the university’s programs in mathematics, statistics, physics, physical oceanography, engineering, and honors (the Honors College).  The project will also create a center for STEM research and teaching by co-locating faculty research laboratories and teaching laboratories.  A goal of the design is to emphasize the university’s commitment to student involvement in research.

Some programs currently assigned space in S&BS will move to other buildings in an attempt to create additional synergistic opportunities and to allow decompression for existing units.  Sociology and Criminology will move to Bear Hall, Anthropology to DeLoach Hall, Youth Programs and CESTEM to the Academic Support Building, Early College Coordinator and Liaison to King Hall, and Professional Development and QENO to GL100.

Obviously any project of this magnitude, especially one with so many permutations, will require a great deal of additional planning and the cooperation of many units on campus.  We ask for patience as we attempt to match university needs to university resources and as modifications are made to the overall plan for a STEM Center.


Denise A. Battles

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

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