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A New Era for Science and Entrepreneurship at Ursinus

The Innovation and Discovery Center is an interactive space designed to educate the next generation of liberal arts undergraduates.

Ursinus leaders, alumni, faculty, students, government officials and community members broke ground for the new center on Friday, Oct. 21 on the Ursinus College campus.

As a space that allows students to undertake scientific inquiry while also studying the influence of policy on science and the impact of science on the world, the IDC empowers Ursinus faculty to educate students and prepare them for the careers of the future.

“The Innovation and Discovery Center will lead the way in how a new generation of liberal arts undergraduates pursue scientific knowledge,” Ursinus College President Brock Blomberg says. “The IDC recognizes that we must teach for careers that haven’t been invented yet, which is why it will infuse policy, entrepreneurship and science with a new approach. This is an ambitious, once-in-a-generation project that will foster creative and innovative thinking, which has always been a hallmark of the Ursinus experience.”

Designed with the “science of the future” in mind, the IDC will house Ursinus’s Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good, which provides opportunities for students to become civically engaged scientific leaders, and the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, which encourages students to exercise innovation, leadership, imagination, and creativity.

Collaborative spaces among multiple academic disciplines will further cultivate the concept of a shared, common experience, a reality of the modern world. The IDC will incorporate 30-seat and 50-seat technology-enhanced active learning classrooms; flexible laboratories that are easily configurable to suit specific needs of a research project; open meeting and work spaces that bring together students and faculty from every discipline; and a unique “maker space” that allows students to create their own tools and technology required for original research and entrepreneurial initiatives.

When complete, Ursinus College will become the first institution in the Centennial Conference of colleges to combine policy, entrepreneurship and science under one roof.

“Students no longer want to be constrained within one academic discipline,” says April Edwards, the interim vice president for academic affairs and interim dean of Ursinus College. “There are growing professional fields that don’t identify with one specific area of study. We want our students to deeply explore multiple areas of expertise — and to understand how academic disciplines intersect.”

“The IDC encourages students to think on a broader scale and to answer critical questions. It has the potential to shape the minds of future leaders and decision makers. We believe it will catapult our students to leadership in research and science education and blaze a trail for the next phase in liberal arts education – one with intentionality and purpose,” Edwards says.

The $29 million project is supported by funds from the college’s Keep the Promise campaign, a comprehensive fundraising campaign that is the most ambitious in Ursinus’s history.   

The 42,500-square-foot facility will be built at the academic center of the Ursinus campus off Main Street and Ninth Avenue in Collegeville and physically connect Pfahler and Thomas halls. It is scheduled to be completed during fall 2018. –by Ed Moorhouse