Cultivating Community: New Science Center Helps Students Integrate Faith and Learning
If you were to walk around Cornerstone University's campus, you might notice an energy among students and faculty in the Kinesiology, Science, Engineering & Math Division. CU's newest building, the Jack and Mary De Witt Center for Science and Technology, is scheduled to open in January, providing both students and faculty with state-of-the-art equipment, space for building community and—most importantly— a place where academic learning points toward Christ as Creator through the integration of science and faith.
Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Students
In recent years, the evolving and developing workforce has produced a greater emphasis on careers within STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, a demand that continues to rise and is predicted to increase 6 percent by 2025. For students interested in STEM-related areas, this offered an incredible opportunity for CU to expand its academic offerings but also generated a significant need for a facility equipped with the necessary resources. Thus, a vision developed: to provide a facility where students could prepare for these rigorous careers in a place that encouraged team learning and growth in a Christ-centered and faith-driven environment. This mission is not only reflected in the academics and teaching at Cornerstone but physically in the structural and design details of the science building itself.
Intentional, Sustainable Design
The new $15.5 million, 29,500-square-foot science building is centrally located on campus, with views extending south and west through magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows. The three-story facility is equipped with seven laboratories and 17 offices, providing students and faculty with ample space for collaboration and use of state-of-the-art equipment, as well as room to house the division's faculty members. Inside, the design is focused on sustainability, including elements of nature to capture the beauty of creation but also to intentionally promote a greener environment.
From a two-story, air-purifying bio wall and a rain garden to an aquarium, stunning artwork and all-natural elements, the building itself is a physical representation of Christ as Creator. Dr. Ned Keller, professor of science, noted the significance of a building equipped with both modern resources and intention and symbolism within its actual design:
"It's going to display Christ as Creator in a physical way and showcase our desire to honor Him as Creator. Beyond being an excellent place to teach, it's going to be a place where we can worship God in a very tangible way."
For Dr. Keller and many others, the building holds great significance in Cornerstone's mission to equip students academically for the workplace and spiritually to be influencers for Christ in their careers.
From Learners to Leaders
Modern technology drives many careers today, and STEM careers are no different. STEM-related fields are constantly and rapidly changing with the emergence of new discoveries and technologies. For students, this means proper training in and experience using the latest technologies and equipment is essential to their preparedness.
With investments in some of the latest technologies and lab equipment available, CU can now provide incoming students with relevant and hands-on academic learning utilizing the new resources and equipment. Carol Day (B.S. ’18), a senior environmental biology major, is excited for current and new students. "The new building and technology will really draw people in and be great for everyone's education," she said. Students now will be able to fully explore and learn in an environment that offers all the tools they need to excel academically and as future leaders in their respective fields.
D’Amaie Davis (B.S. ’21), a sophomore pre-medical major, is excited to have an area dedicated to science and those studying it. "I love that I will get to use new lab equipment and become adjusted to new technology before I leave for graduate school. The science center will help me develop my skill set in medicine and prepare me for my career."
A Legacy of Faith and Giving
The new science facility is named in honor of Jack De Witt and his wife, Mary. A well-respected businessman and entrepreneur, Jack devoted his life to serving Christ through his business, community involvement and philanthropy. He and Mary have generously supported numerous civic and ministry-related enterprises. We are particularly thankful that their generous partnership with Cornerstone has enabled us to advance our mission through the campus additions of De Witt Field, Central Hall, Christ Chapel and, most recently, the Jack and Mary De Witt Center for Science and Technology.
"We wouldn't have this state-of-the-art science facility without Jack and Mary's generous partnership," President Joe Stowell reflected. "Due to their embrace of the importance of a Christ-centered education for this generation, we've been able to expand our ability to provide outstanding resources for our students. We will be forever grateful."
After a valiant fight with brain cancer, Jack went home to be with the Lord on June 22, 2018.