College of Natural Sciences seeks funding to renovate Welch Hall

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Photo Credit: Emma Whalen | Daily Texan Staff

The College of Natural Sciences has launched a kickstarter for a $1.2 million crowdfunding campaign to renovate Welch Hall.

This community giving effort, will be underway until December 2017, is part of the $12 million total fundraising campaign to renovate Welch Hall with an estimated completion date of 2020.

“I am very excited,” Dean Appling, associate dean for research and facilities, said. “We have the opportunity to rejuvenate this important building into a vibrant, modern, efficient space that will serve students and researchers for decades to come.”

Appling, also a professor in molecular biosciences, said the current Welch Hall is showing its age and thus needs updating.

“The research that has gone in this building over the years is still important as ever, but the way this research is carried out has changed,” Appling said. “It is much more interdisciplinary, and many of the techniques we now use require much better mechanical infrastructure.”

Kelsey Evans, assistant dean for external relations, said the original part of the building — the 1929 wing — began construction earlier this summer which includes renovating research labs for faculty and teaching labs for students, adding new classrooms and updating mechanical systems. This funding came from the University’s and the College of Natural Sciences’ budgets.

When the Texas Legislature approved tuition revenue bonds (TRBs) — state-funded bonds for construction projects at universities — during its 84th regular legislative session, UT received $75 million for the renovation of the 1978 wing.

“With the campus money that was put up for the 1929 wing, the TRBs and a bit of additional campus funding, we’re in a very good shape to be able to renovate Welch Hall to the level and the extent that we need to renovate it,” Evans said. “But we still have a fundraising goal of $12 million.”

Ninety percent of the $12 million will be funded by the College of Natural Sciences development team’s fundraising effort through larger gifts of between $250k and $1 million from individuals and companies. The remaining $1.2m will come from crowdfudning.

Evans said the new Welch Hall will occupy the same space on Speedway and 24th but with a different look inside.

“Right now Welch Hall is dark, closed off with not much natural light,” Evans said. “It’s not necessarily designed for the way people learn today, which is in a more collaborative environment.”

Sean Roberts, assistant professor in physical chemistry, said this renovation is “bittersweet” for him.

“It will improve our department, but create a significant short-term headache for my research group,” Roberts, who has both his office and his research lab in Welch, said.

“While the renovation will be good for UT as a whole, faculty members that occupy the space are nervous since few details have been released regarding the project’s specific timeline,” Roberts said. “This makes it very difficult to create long-term plans for my research group knowing that we have a big move coming sometime in the near future.”

Appling said the renovation will be done in several stages during which labs and offices in the respective wing or floor will be moved to available “swing space” in other parts of Welch Hall or in other CNS buildings such as the Norman Hackerman Building. Appling said the design process is just beginning, so detailed plans aren’t yet available.