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Governor says Science and Health Sciences Building will develop future workforce

| Gary Johnson

Photo caption: Chancellor James Schmidt, right, discusses the new Science and Health Sciences Building with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, center, during the governor's visit to UW-Eau Claire on Thursday.

A new Science and Health Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will help the university and its partners develop the workforces and jobs of the future, Gov. Tony Evers says.

Evers and Department of Administration Secretary-designee Kathy Blumenfeld were on UW-Eau Claire’s campus Thursday to highlight the $231.3 million the governor included in his 2023-25 capital budget for the second phase of funding to replace the deteriorating Phillips Science Hall. The project includes demolition of the 60-year-old building that no longer meets the needs of UW-Eau Claire students.

The Science and Health Sciences Building funding will be considered by the state Legislature as part of the biennial budget process that includes the governor’s $3.8 billion capital budget proposal. If approved, building construction would begin in spring 2024 and the building would open in fall 2026.

“It’s great for us to work with UW-Eau Claire and their partners and the private sector — Mayo Clinic and others — that are really behind some really unique ways to teach science and prepare for the workforce,” Evers says.

“It is a reflection of the good work the folks at the university do, but it’s also a reflection of the community and the region at large. That plays a huge role in the decision-making process.”

Rendering of UW-Eau Claire Science and Health Sciences Building

Blumenfeld echoed Evers’ sentiments, citing the vital role collaborations play in projects such as the Science and Health Sciences Building.

“I can’t overemphasize the importance of partnerships,” Blumenfeld says. “This project is going to impact health care, it will impact science discoveries, research and really make a legacy for generations to come.”

Evers and Blumenfeld visited a Phillips Hall science room to hear faculty and students share their research accomplishments and their enthusiasm for opportunities that will be possible in the new Science and Health Sciences Building. The also viewed the construction site where the future Science and Health Sciences Building will stand.

The $340.3 million building will be built on the sites of the former Katharine Thomas and Putnam halls, two lower-campus residence halls that were demolished last fall. The 330,000-square-foot building will be the largest academic facility on UW-Eau Claire’s campus when it is built on the site next to Vicki Lord Larson Hall and McIntyre Library.

“With the announcement we want to remind you that this project is shovel-ready, and we are prepared to begin building as early as next spring,” Chancellor James Schmidt says. “We encourage the State Building Commission and the Joint Committee on Finance to give this project all due consideration and move it forward. For that is what our state is all about: moving forward.”

The 2019-21 state budget included $109 million for the first phase of the building project. That included a $13.7 million gift from Mayo Clinic Health System, $2.04 million in campus funds to demolish Katharine Thomas and Putnam halls and $93.25 million in state general fund-supported borrowing.

Rendering of UW-Eau Claire Science and Health Sciences Building

The Mayo Clinic Health Care System funds will help pay for a 10,000-square-foot shared research workspace dedicated to the research collaboration between Mayo Clinic and UW-Eau Claire. In February, the health care system and university extended for another 10 years their collaborative research agreement that was initiated in 2017.

Dr. Rick Helmers, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System in Northwest Wisconsin, says the health care system is extremely pleased that the governor recommended the funds to complete the Science and Health Sciences Building.

“Mayo Clinic Health System is committed to the relationship we have forged, and extended for another 10 years, with UW-Eau Claire,” Helmers says. “Our three-shield mission — clinical practice, education and research — will live on in the Science and Health Sciences Building for decades to come, educating thousands of students and bringing the nation’s elite educators to campus to collaborate with Mayo Clinic Health System’s doctors, researchers and scientists. This investment in Western Wisconsin will allow us to continue the work that has linked the energy of young minds with opportunities for improved patient care.

Learn more about the Science and Health Sciences Building project here.