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Written by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31   
Wednesday, 12 June 2024 10:10

uwec-campus-clockSen. Smith and Rep. Emerson highlight the bi-partisan achievement last legislative session of funding a new Science and Health Sciences building for the UW-Eau Claire campus.


EAU CLAIRE, WI - Breaking ground for the new Science and Health Sciences building on the UW-Eau Claire campus is a big deal. It’s been a long haul, but we’re finally there. Planning for a new state-of-the-art facility has been in the works for at least a decade, and now it’s becoming a reality.

The need has been evident to anyone who walks through the current Phillips Science Building. Built over 60 years ago, it has far outlived its usefulness.

When it was built, the Phillips Science building met all the expectations of the times. So many students started their journey there, and it ultimately led them to great careers and discoveries. But current science applications have outgrown what the current building can support. Of course, that’s not to mention the maintenance needs of a 60 year old building.

As with any worthwhile endeavor, getting to this point in time has not been easy. UWEC officials have worked hard to convince many others that investing approximately $340 million into a science building in Eau Claire would be a smart investment.

Local officials needed to be on board, the UW System Board of Regents needed to support the idea and, finally, legislators and the governor had to agree to make its construction a spending priority. A lot of politicking goes into such a big project and all for good reason. If it makes it through such a vetting process and convinced that many people, it was worthy of approval. And this one sure is.

uwec-campusThe funding approvals in 2019 and 2023 happened in the biennial state budgets. Early in both the 2019 and 2023 budget processes, we requested the Governor to include the science building project in his budgets. Thankfully, Governor Evers also recognized the importance and included the project in his budgets.

The hardest part was getting the project approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and Joint Finance Committee. There were hiccups along the way. For instance when Republicans blocked approval of the project on the building commission, but it eventually got done, despite political nonsense.

In the last four-years, Republicans and Democrats haven’t agreed on much, but we all agreed that the UWEC Science and Health Sciences building needed to get done. As rare as that is, both sides came together for this big investment in the Chippewa Valley for the course of 5 years.

The most unique and exciting aspect of this process was Mayo Clinic Health System’s $14 million investment in the project. This is the largest private donation to a UW-System academic building outside of Madison or Milwaukee in our state’s history.

Once completed the UWEC Science and Health Sciences building will be the largest in the Universities of Wisconsin. With Mayo as a partner, we expect big things to happen on Eau Claire’s campus.

jeff-smithThe new Science and Health Sciences building will enable UWEC to build on their nationally recognized reputation for producing top-notch chemists and researchers. In the past decade, research experiences at UWEC have resulted in over 130 students appearing as co-authors on articles published in peer-reviewed journals, and a similar number presenting their research results at national scientific meetings. These high-impact outcomes help to explain why UWEC ranks in the 97th percentile among its peer institutions as the baccalaureate origin of students who go on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry.

jodi-emersonGrowing off past success demonstrates how well earned this project is. Our entire state will benefit from the research and the draw of talent that the new Science and Health Sciences building will attract to our community.

We haven’t even mentioned the immediate economic benefits to the Chippewa Valley with such an immense construction project. The professionals that will be employed throughout the construction phase is just a sweet bonus.

This is what can happen when we come to an agreement and choose to work together. Everyone benefits and not one person can take the credit. We look forward to more opportunities like this. After all, we all do better when we all do better.


Senator Smith represents District 31 in the Wisconsin State Senate. The 31st Senate District includes all of Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau counties and portions of Pierce, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson and St. Croix counties.

Representative Jodi Emerson represents District 91 including eastern Eau Clare and rural areas to the east.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2024 10:51
 
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