From a far-reaching vision 10 years ago, it's now full speed ahead on the new College of Engineering building after the final chunk of funding was signed off by Governor Brian Sandoval in a ceremony June 16 at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"It is an exciting time as the growth in our college - the research, more students, more faculty - comes into greater alignment with the economic development of our State," Manos Maragakis, dean of the college of engineering, said. "And it's gratifying to have the support of the governor and the legislature as we continue to pursue our vision of a globally competitive engineering education and provide a high quality professional workforce to new and existing industries throughout the state and make high-impact breakthroughs through state-of-the-art research."
The University committed $23 million to the $87.5 million project and is securing $23 million in funding from private donors. Governor Brian Sandoval proposed the final piece of the funding puzzle in his budget presented at the State of the State address in January 2017. The budget item, $41.5 million, was adopted by the Nevada State Legislature and then signed into law by Sandoval in the bill signing ceremony at the University.
"I remember going in the basement of the engineering building and seeing faculty doing their (experiments), and it was a little primitive, I have to say," Governor Sandoval said about a tour of the old building he had taken with University President Marc Johnson. "He impressed upon me how important it was we needed to upgrade. And he was right on.
"As I talk to new companies looking to come into our state, the first question they ask is about workforce, and the amount of engineers we can produce and the amount of future employees and certifications we can produce. When I tell them we are building a new engineering building on this campus, it's kind of an 'ah' moment; it injects in them a sense of confidence."
A new engine for growth on campus and beyond
Sandoval has been a champion of economic development and technology since taking office six years ago, instituting the office of economic development and looking to partner with higher education as an engine of growth.
"We knew we had to set the foundation of innovation in this state, for economic diversification," he said. "And now we see the University's five key research areas, some words that weren't too familiar back then: sustainable energy (including energy storage technologies), cybersecurity, infrastructure improvement including earthquake engineering, autonomous technology, robotics, advanced manufacturing - all cutting-edge areas to train these engineers of the future for what is coming."
At the bill signing, President Johnson thanked the legislature and the governor for "the forward-looking proposals" for economic development, education and research.
"This is a very special day, thank you so much, Governor Sandoval and legislators, for the tremendous amount of work you've done and the willingness to come together in the end to pass some very, very important legislation ... that will affect the economic development of this state," he said.
"The kind of industries that are coming to this state are requiring much more high-end, high-tech training, so that they can work on development, as well as application and manufacturing," Johnson said in January after hearing of Sandoval's budget proposal. "Engineering is fundamental to the diversification of the economy in this area, and therefore, engineering is growing. Students want to be engineers. They are really attracted to the new industries coming to this area."
The new engineering space will make room for the fastest growing college on campus, now with 2,900 engineering students and nearly 90 faculty, which is double what is was in 2005. The college has already run out of space. With expected future student enrollment growth - the college anticipates needing 30 to 40 more faculty in the next five years - they will need even more space for teaching and research.
The new engineering building is moving through the design stages in preparation for the start of construction in October 2018, with the building scheduled for completion in June 2020. With University funding, the design process started last November, and the schematic design just completed. The next step, design development, is set to be complete in October, and the design will be finalized in July 2018.
Offering a new gateway to the east side of campus on Evans Avenue, the building will be approximately 87,000 square feet and four stories tall. Only three stories will be visible from Evans Avenue. The building's exterior will be constructed of brick, metal wall panels and curtain wall glazing to fit with the design of adjacent buildings. It will create a full engineering complex that includes several other engineering facilities supporting its five departments: Computer Science and Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Materials Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.