New Construction

UW-River Falls Plans $117M STEM Facility

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls, located in River Falls, Wis., is in the final phases of planning construction on a new, $117-million STEM facility. The project has been approved by the university’s Board of Regents but still needs approval from the state Building Commission, which rejected the proposal during 2021 state budget discussions. The regents approved the project during its regular meeting on Friday, June 10, according to local news.

The new Science and Technology Innovation Center would provide 73,865 square feet of academic space for biology, chemistry, health sciences and pre-engineering programs. Its first floor would also offer space for collaborations with regional businesses.

University Chancellor Maria Gallo said that about 60 percent of the student body enrolls in a STEM course during their time at the university. UW-River Falls also produces the third-highest percentage of STEM graduates within the UW System, she said. The growing demand for STEM degrees led to the pursuit of a new facility.

“That'll be good to have state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and learning, as well as laboratory spaces to do the same and also to conduct student research, which is really important,” Gallo said. “That's one of those high-impact practices that allow students to complete their degree and then go on and be very marketable out in the workforce.”

Regents first approved the $117-million price tag in 2020. Since then, inflation has driven up construction costs, and designs have been altered to keep the project under budget. Local news reports that the state Building Commission unilaterally rejected all building projects from Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget for 2021. Gallo said that this time around, the project has strong bipartisan support from regional legislators. The Commission will review the project in August.

“I’m confident that because we’ve met all the milestones up to this point, that we should be able to go forward,” said Gallo.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].