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As published in Toledo Business Journal - January 1, 2019

Rendering of the planned Austin E. Knowlton Science Center at Bluffton

Rendering of the planned Austin E. Knowlton Science Center at Bluffton

Bluffton planning $14.5M science center

University’s nutrition and dietetics lab to be sponsored by Sodexo

As part of Bluffton University’s 2014 facilities master plan, the institution has been engaged in architectural planning for and raising the necessary funds to open a new science building that will support Bluffton students majoring in the natural and health sciences and for all students in the general education program.

Bluffton is planning to invest $14.5 million in the Austin E. Knowlton Science Center, a 32,500 square foot facility located at the heart of campus with a site development plan that creates a pedestrian-only central campus and supports Bluffton’s goals for teaching and learning and for environmental sustainability.

At the October meeting of the Bluffton board of trustees, members authorized demolition of Lincoln Hall, a 1920s residence hall, so that the university can prepare the site for the new building. To date, Bluffton has surpassed $13.9 million of the $14.5 million total to fund the center’s total project cost and is continuing to make progress toward the goal of opening for the 2020/21 academic school year. The Knowlton Science Center is part of a comprehensive campaign to secure $26 million in support for annual operations and student aid, innovation in teaching and learning, and endowment.

Tricia Bell, content manager for Bluffton University’s public relations, said, “A new science building is essential for Bluffton to deliver 21st century teaching and learning for academic majors in the natural and applied sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and dietetics and as an integral part of Bluffton’s liberal arts education for all students. The new building and site plan will enhance Bluffton’s campus and naturalized setting by creating a pedestrian-only area closely connected to the Centennial Hall academic center. The site development includes removal of two older buildings, Lincoln Hall (a decommissioned residence hall) and Berky Science Hall.”

The project architects are SoL Harris/Day Architecture from North Canton, serving as the executive architects, and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson from Pittsburgh, serving as the design architects.

According to Bell, The Knowlton Science Center will be a building designed for science where the lab is the primary classroom. Features include:

Rendering of the nutrition and dietetics labs in the Austin E. Knowlton Science Center

Rendering of the nutrition and dietetics labs in the Austin E. Knowlton Science Center

“The natural and applied sciences will be housed in the building including biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, dietetics, and nursing – however, all students will benefit from the building through Bluffton’s general education program. Bluffton also recently introduced two new majors, pre-physical therapy and pre-engineering, and students in those disciplines will also utilize the space and classrooms,” said Bell.

In addition, Sodexo will sponsor Bluffton’s new, state-of-the-art Nutrition and Dietetics Lab in the Austin E. Knowlton Science Center with a lead corporate contribution of $650,000, according to Dr. Jane Wood, president of Bluffton University.

“Sodexo’s commitment to the Knowlton Science Center building project is the largest corporate contribution in Bluffton’s history, and I am deeply grateful for Sodexo’s willingness to invest in this high priority project and in the nutrition and dietetics education of Bluffton students for many years to come,” said president Wood.

According to the university, Sodexo has been Bluffton’s dining services partner for more than 14 years and during that time has invested in a number of enhancements to Bluffton’s student dining experience, including the 2018 opening of Freshens in Marbeck Center which offers a variety of healthy menu options.

“Sodexo is pleased to support Bluffton University’s initiative to bring the Knowlton Science Center and the Nutrition and Dietetics Lab to life,” said Amy Buratti, senior vice president for Sodexo. “We have a longstanding relationship with Bluffton University, and we are a committed partner and employer to the local community. It is important to us to give back to the communities where we live and serve.”

According to Bell, there are 721 students who attend Bluffton University. When speaking of the university, Bell said, “At Bluffton University, our sense of a greater purpose develops students of exceptional character and expansive vision. Since 1899, we’ve been learning, experiencing, and bettering the world together. Located on a 65-acre campus in northwest Ohio and lined with abundant natural beauty, a rambling creek, and a Nature Preserve to explore, Bluffton University is a place that inspires. With nationally accredited programs in dietetics, education, music, and social work, and champion volleyball and women’s basketball teams, you will be pushed to greatness and challenged in this changing world.”

She concluded by noting that 99% of its graduates are employed or in graduate school or long-term service within six months of graduation.