University of St. Thomas To Break Ground on State-of-the-Art Science Center

By | October 28, 2015
courtesy of the University of St. Thomas
courtesy of the University of St. Thomas

For much of the University of St. Thomas’s 68-year history, the small Catholic college has been one of Houston’s best-kept secrets. Recently, however, UST has been trying to raise its profile. First, there were a series of billboards around the Houston area trumpeting the school’s academic credentials. Next came an ambitious $170 million capital campaign called “Faith In Our Future: The Campaign for the University of St. Thomas,” which will increase student scholarships and add new academic buildings to the university’s 19-block campus.

The most visible product of the capital campaign will be the $50 million Center for Science and Health Professions, a four-story, 100,000-square-foot facility that will house UST’s biology and chemistry departments and the Carol and Odis Peavy School of Nursing, along with classrooms and state-of-the-art science labs. Groundbreaking for the CSHP will be held on November 12, with a grand opening scheduled for the spring of 2017.

The need for a new science center has been clear for years, especially since UST revived its long-dormant undergraduate nursing program in 2012, in response to a national and local need for health care professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that health care employment will grow 26 percent by 2022—an increase of over 4 million jobs. Texas alone is expected to face a shortage of 83,600 registered nurses by 2020.

courtesy of the University of St. Thomas
courtesy of the University of St. Thomas

UST students have clearly been paying attention—in the past five years, the university has seen a 75 percent increase in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors, and about half of current UST students are currently pursuing a degree in a STEM field. Earlier this year, UST became the 55th member institution of the Texas Medical Center. To keep up with its peers, UST realized that it needed a new, modern science center.

“The facilities we have now are not only worn out, but we’ve expanded into areas like closets and staircases,” said David Harvey, Jr., the chairman of the Faith In Our Future campaign and a former member of the board of directors. “We’ve made absolutely the most we can out of what we have. We brought the department heads into the planning process, and they were obviously extremely excited to get some facilities to meet their needs.”

Although UST has historically been known as a liberal arts school, Harvey said that it’s always been strong in science as well. “When we started pushing STEM, I was a little concerned—are we running counter to the culture here? Are we going to meet with resistance from the professors who teach English and art history? But we’ve always had the sciences. We do have chemists and biologists here—it’s just not our image.”

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