Ox­ford plans science cen­ter

Fa­cil­ity would house new and old pro­grams

The Covington News - - OPINION - By Jenny Thompson

Ad­min­is­tra­tors at Ox­ford Col­lege of Emory Univer­sity want to con­struct a state-ofthe-art science cen­ter on the cam­pus to en­hance ex­ist­ing pro­grams and house new ones with ex­panded ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Ox­ford Dean Stephen Bowen wel­comed lo­cal busi­ness and gov­ern­ment lead­ers to a lunch Thurs­day dis­cussing the plan and ask­ing for in­put on what they thought a new science fa­cil­ity should of­fer.

Bowen said the idea for a new cen­ter was born out of the col­lege’s strate­gic plan.

“A vi­tal thing Ox­ford re­ally needed to es­tab­lish in that plan is Ox­ford’s role in the Emory Univer­sity Sys­tem,” Bowen said.

He said the role as a twoyear lib­eral arts col­lege should be to pre­pare stu­dents not only for study at a four-year in­sti­tu­tion, but also how to think crit­i­cally and de­velop a so­cial con­science.

Twenty per­cent of stu­dents at Emory Univer­sity start at Ox­ford Col­lege, and Bowen said they show more aca­demic prow­ess than oth­ers.

“Emory pro­fes­sors al­ways tell me they can tell the Ox­ford stu­dents apart from the oth­ers be­cause they sit in the front and they ask hard ques­tions,” he said.

Bowen said Ox­ford ad­min­is­tra­tors and fac­ulty are fo­cused on the breath of their stu­dents’ ed­u­ca­tion.

“There’s no area of study where this is more im­por­tant than in the sci­ences,” Bowen said.

Bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Eloise Carter ex­plained some of the science pro­grams of which she and her col­leagues are par­tic­u­larly proud.

“A lot of the things I’m show­ing you to­day are the things we’re re­ally ex­cited about and we want to look at how to in­cor­po­rate and en­hance them in the new build­ing,” Carter said.

Carter said she wants her stu­dents to gain real-world ex­pe­ri­ence while at Ox­ford. She showed at­ten­dants pic­tures of a re­search team study­ing mi­cro­bial ecol­ogy/ge­net­ics on the bank of a stream and ex­plained how each stu­dent must present in­ves­ti­ga­tion as­sign­ments to their class and de­fend their re­sults.

She said the science fac­ulty must use case stud­ies in ev­ery course and al­ways use tech­nol­ogy to im­prove lec­tures and as­sign­ments.

“There are lots of ways to approach teach­ing and learn­ing,” Carter said.

Ox­ford science stu­dents also con­nect with k-12 stu­dents through stream chem­istry projects with mid­dle school stu­dents and sto­ry­book statis- tics with el­e­men­tary school stu­dents.

Science fac­ulty mem­bers also teach k-12 teach­ers how to con­duct school-yard ex­per­i­ments with their stu­dents through the Ox­ford In­sti­tute for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ed­u­ca­tion in the sum­mer.

They also en­cour­age in­de­pen­dent or self- mo­ti­vated study through pro­grams such as Ox­ford Re­search Schol­ars and the Howard Hughes Grant SURE Pro­gram.

The Ox­ford Ex­plor­ing the World pro­gram al­lows stu­dents to visit dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments around the globe and how the peo­ple in that re­gion study it.

“One of our goals is to speak with as many of our con­stituents as pos­si­ble about what we want for the fu­ture,” Carter said.

Perkins and Will ar­chi­tects Gary McNay and Erika Morgan were on hand to ex­plain the goal to have the build­ing cer­ti­fied in the U.S. Green Build­ing Coun­cil’s Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign pro­gram.

Emory Univer­sity has man­dated all new build­ings con­structed in the sys­tem must have at least a gold rat­ing, but McNay said the plan is to build it with a plat­inum rat­ing. Points are scored based on fea­tures in cat­e­gories such as wa­ter man­age­ment, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and use of re­cy­cled or en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly ma­te­ri­als.

“We re­ally think this will be a place where peo­ple in New­ton County will come to see how this works,” Carter said, “and not just from New­ton County, but from all over the South­east.”

Board of Coun­selors mem­bers Denny Dobbs and Zoe Hicks wanted to know what in­dus­try lead­ers thought the build­ing should in­clude and what skills they looked for in their em­ploy­ees.

At­ten­dants said the build­ing should al­low stu­dents to have ac­cess to abun­dant in­for­ma­tion, com­put­er­ize ev­ery­thing and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for area busi­ness and gov­ern­ment lead­ers to view what the stu­dents are do­ing.

Dobbs said a mod­ern science fa­cil­ity is cru­cial to the Ox­ford ex­pe­ri­ence.

“My dad was a pretty good farmer with a mule,” Dobbs said, “but when he got a trac­tor he was a re­ally good farmer — re­ally ef­fi­cient.”

He said a new cen­ter at the cam­pus could po­ten­tially cre­ate world lead­ers in ar­eas of chem­istry, bi­ol­ogy and medicine.

Bowen ex­plained the Emory Univer­sity sys­tem has promised to fund half of the pro­jected $36 mil­lion of con­struc­tion and equip­ment costs.

“This build­ing is go­ing to hap­pen,” Bowen said. “It’s more of a when, than an if.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the pro­posed science cen­ter, call Ox­ford Col­lege at (770) 784-8888.

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