UAA needs integrated science center fast

Senator Johnny Ellis is a longtime Anchorage resident, educated at Bartlett High School, UAA (where he served as a student senator) and Claremont McKenna College. First elected in 1986, he represents midtown and downtown Anchorage in the Alaska State Senate and serves as the Democratic Minority Leader.

There is a severe shortage of lab and science classroom space on the UAA campus. Anyone who has tried to take a science course with a lab requirement at UAA is aware of the problem. ReP. Berta Gardner and I have filed companion bills in the House and Senate to appropriate the final phase of funding for the UA Integrated Sciences Center at UAA.

The project remains the university’s top capital budget priority for new construction and is a critical need for UAA. It would mean access for science students as well as students seeking to fulfill their lab course degree requirements. Lab space is in high demand and desperately needed. Senate Bill 99 and House Bill 145 will provide for the full state funding of the Integrated Science Center, allowing the university to begin the construction process as early as the summer of this year.

Last year, we secured $21.6 million in the state’s Capital Budget towards the project, which, in addition to an initial $8.4 million for planning, totaled $30 million. This year, the university needs $55 million from the state to start construction. The longer we wait, the more we lose; delay is costing us in dollars as well as student productivity and learning. Students need to have access to this facility as soon as possible.

The university is an economic engine for Anchorage and the state. There is a great potential here for public-private partnerships in the allied health services to help meet the demand for nurses and other medical professions. SB 99 and HB 145 will give the University the remaining amount it needs to break ground on the 120,000 square foot building. Once completed, the state-of-the-art facility would house 35 instructional and research laboratories, as well as five modern classrooms, offices and support spaces for astronomy, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, geology, physics and the WWAMI Biomedical Program.

This state-of-the-art facility will help the university attract grant funding and prepare students to become the skilled workforce of tomorrow’s Alaska. We need to move Alaska forward. If you support this vital project, contact your legislator and consider writing a letter supporting funding to the editors of The Northern Light and the Anchorage Daily News.