Future Student Innovation Center promotes collaboration among students

Jake Dalbey

Plans for the upcoming Student Innovation Center on campus are being finalized as new details emerge about the project.

Proposed last September out of a vision created by ISU President Steven Leath, the building is being pitched as a center for collaboration among students of every college at Iowa State.

“This is truly going to be a building of interdisciplinary design that will be nothing else like we have on campus,” said Dawn Bratsch-Prince, associate provost of faculty. ”It won’t be owned by one college, so we expect to see students, for example, from textile and clothing, marketing or even industrial engineering all working together toward a single goal.”

Similar in idea to the Memorial Union’s study spaces and student offices but unique to the campus, the Innovation Center will focus on providing a space for students to work and create while meeting others who share similar passions.

“It’s an important project because it’s a space that anyone can use and it’s meant for everyone to use, it’s like the sense of community you get from walking into the Memorial Union,” said Megan Sweere, vice president of Student Government and a member of the Student Innovation Center steering committee. ”There’s buildings like Gerdin, where if you’re not a student of the College of Business you may not feel like you belong. It’s meant to foster creativity and imagination through a sense of belonging.”

Currently in it’s opening stages of development, the university’s chosen architects have begun meeting with the Student Innovation Center steering committee in order to finalize design plans.

Kieran Timberlake, an architectural company based in Philadelphia, is one of the two companies hired to design the Student Innovation Center. Its work includes renovations and buildings for Harvard and Yale. The other company is Substance Architecture in Des Moines, which previously collaborated with Iowa State on the Olsen Building remodel and construction of the Bergstrom Football Complex.

The price of the center is $80 million, however, grants and state funds have allowed the cost to be mitigated by almost 75 percent.

“We’ve been very fortunate, President Leath has been able to secure funding from donors and significant funding from the state legislature,” Prince said. “So we’ve got $60 million of the $80 million we need already committed, which is a tremendous feat that we are very thankful for.”

Among one of the most important aspects in the eyes of the Student Innovation Center committee is input from students on the proposed ideas for the center.

Surveys were sent out near the middle of January to every ISU student, asking for opinions on what they’d like to see be incorporated into the building, which is feedback that Prince and the rest of the committee take very seriously.

“We sent out student surveys of which we’ve had great a response, almost a 12 percent input rate, which is great,” Prince said. “One of the questions we asked in the survey was ‘would you be willing to be a part of a focus group’ and for those students who answer yes will be the students we reach out to with the architects.”

The Student Innovation Center steering committee includes student representatives, whose input will greatly determine the design process moving forward, along with future leaders and presidents of academic clubs and colleges across campus.

“Being in my position on Student Government, they were looking for representatives and it was something that I was interested in,” Sweere said. “I’ve been involved with the entire process since the summer and currently the design plans are limited, which is why we are looking so much for student input.”

One of the most popular requests stated by students was the importance of an adequate number of charging stations and outlets, something Prince said she will take to the design stage.

Sweere and Prince, along with the rest of the Student Innovation Center committee hope the center will be a source of inspiration for universities and institutions across the nation.

“Currently, there’s nothing like this on campus at the moment,” Prince said. “In higher education today, we see the importance of hands on learning and this is the type of building that will offer that. I think this is a place that other institutions will look to with admiration, as it’s a place that has to be flexible enough to accommodate the future students of ISU.”

The project is projected to finish construction around the fall semester of 2019 and open doors the next semester in 2020. It will be located where the current Marston Water Tower stands between the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory and Sweeney Hall.

Prince encourages students interested in the project to complete the emailed surveys and contact the steering committee as volunteers for upcoming focus groups/committees.