Members of the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents viewed schematic drawings for a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics facility during the group's April quarterly meeting and voted to name the facility in honor of long-time SFA benefactors Ed and Gwen Cole.

"The Coles have changed lives at SFA," said Jill Still, SFA vice president for advancement. "Funding provided by Ed and his late wife, Gwen, supports fine arts, audiology, nursing, student scholarships, faculty development, athletic programs and more. Their generous gifts have impacted student success, which was a passion that they shared."

A glass atrium planned for the four-story Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building will highlight the 50-foot dome of a new planetarium, which will seat more than 100 people and provide significant viewing opportunities for SFA students and the public.

Barry Nelson, Board of Regents secretary and chair of the building and grounds committee, said the committee members enjoyed the challenge of working with the architects to develop a design that was unique and impressive while meeting the budgetary requirements of the project.

"The building will have a stunning entryway that will draw people in," Nelson said. "The facility will define our campus, and it will be a structure that others will come to see when they are planning STEM facilities and even other types of building projects."

In correlation with current educational trends, the facility will showcase "maker spaces," which are classrooms and laboratories focused on hands-on learning. Dr. Kimberly Childs, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, defined maker spaces as "unscripted labs where students go to invent, imagine and build."

Dr. Danny Gallant, vice president for finance and administration, said the university is moving forward to the next design phase. Construction is projected to start in November, and the expected completion and move-in date is August 2018.

When the STEM facility is complete, space will become available in other buildings on the campus, particularly the E.L. Miller Science Building. During a special meeting Friday, the board heard presentations from two architectural firms to determine space requirements and develop programming for the science building.

Members approved hiring Facility Programming and Consulting, a company that specializes in space utilization. Facility Programming and Consulting worked with the university on the new STEM building and has completed projects across the nation. The company will identify renovation needs in the Miller Science Building and provide recommendations to ensure the best use of institutional space in the building.

Regents also approved construction of a parking lot adjacent to the parking garage on Feazell Street to replace spaces that will be removed as a result of the STEM facility construction.

SFA's 2020 master plan addresses the need for additional space for the College of Fine Arts, including the development of a performing arts district. Three architectural firms presented material and ideas concerning this project to the board during Friday's meeting.

Regents approved the hiring of Houston-based Kirksey Architecture to review the university's needs, requests and limitations pertaining to the performing arts center. Kirksey Architecture will create "a recipe book for building" the performing arts center through fact-finding, facility tours and research. Kirksey Architecture also played a role in the design of SFA freshman residence hall Lumberjack Landing.

The board approved renovations to the William R. Johnson Coliseum men's basketball locker room, which includes converting 200 square feet from the shower area to provide more room for team gatherings and meetings.

In other business, regents approved the allocation of scholarship funding to support enrollment in the Department of Secondary Education and Educational Leadership in the James I. Perkins College of Education. Board members approved a reduced rate for students in the online educational leadership program, which will save each student in the 18-credit hour certificate program more than $2,000, while each student in the 30-credit hour master's program will save almost $4,000. The rates will allow SFA to remain competitive among peer institutions.

Additionally, regents ratified a five-year agreement with AcademicWorks, a financial software program, to help centralize the scholarship process and make it easier for students to apply and search for scholarships.

Regents approved the fiscal year 2015-16 summer budget and ratified $82,125 additional grant awards allocable to the 2016 fiscal year; the funds are a portion of the $6.7 million in grant funding for the fiscal year.

When the Stephen F. Austin State University Foundation was created 40 years ago, members of the SFA Board of Regents at that time served as foundation board members. On Tuesday, regents honored the current foundation board members and reaffirmed the university's relationship with the foundation, a non-profit organization that exists to serve and benefit the university.

Regents heard reports from Hilltop Securities, the Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and President Baker Pattillo. Regents received an update on the university's marketing campaign and new SFA website, and approved the campaign's budget.

During the Tuesday meeting, the board received a report from the SFA auditor and also approved:

  • building and grounds policy, academic and student policy, and financial affairs policy revisions;
  • the redistribution of funds from the sale of property donated to the university;
  • curriculum and core curriculum revisions;
  • an amended agreement with the Educational Advisory Board through June 2021;
  • an amendment of SFA's and Texas A&M University's investment agreement; and
  • increasing Aramark's financial commitment to the university as it continues to diversify its food service program.