GRAY - East Tennessee State University leaders hope to build a vast math and science building as part of efforts to integrate instruction and accommodate enrollment growth, President Paul Stanton said Thursday.
"We know that our university is growing at such a rate that six to eight years from now we're going to need one or two additional academic buildings," Stanton said after announcing the project during the ETSU Foundation's annual membership meeting at the Gray Fossil Site.
"And the first one I'd like to see come online as an academic building will be for math and science. It's probably six to eight years away from all the hoops and hurdles of getting approved."
Last year, ETSU announced that it had established its new Center of Excellence in Math and Science Education, a program intended to integrate the related subjects to improve instruction in both K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions.
"They serve a national and international need to enhance education and training in those areas," Stanton said.
The new building would free up space in ETSU's Brown Hall, home to several of the university's scientific disciplines, and Gilbreath Hall, the university's original building and home to the math department.
"That would allow us as they empty into the new facility to backfill into those two buildings, and I think all told we could accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 additional students," Stanton said.
The president also announced in the meeting that he expected ETSU's enrollment to approach 13,000 students next fall, besting the record of 12,649 students set in fall 2006.
Stanton said administrators had pinpointed no location for the math and science building.
"We're just about two months into the conceptual planning for it, so we don't have a site in mind," he said. "It will certainly have to be located within easy walking distance for the students somewhere on the main campus where they can get back and forth between classes.
"It will be quite large. I would say it would wind up being one of the largest academic buildings on campus."
ETSU leaders will propose the math and science project to the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to get it on a planning list of capital projects for the state's public higher education institutions. Based on experience with other projects, Stanton said he expected the state to take six to eight years to fund it.
ETSU already has one major project on that list - a 130,000-square-foot fine arts building. That project recently moved up from 25th to 13th on the state's list of priorities, Stanton said.
Also in Thursday's meeting, Stanton announced that the main campus' former medical school building - originally the student union building - would soon become home to a railroad museum.
Led by Dr. Fred Alsop, an ETSU biology professor, the railroad project started a few years ago in the B. Carroll Reece Museum and moved to temporary space at Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, Stanton said. Organizers have been moving displays back to the campus this spring with an opening planned for the summer.
Stanton said it was fitting for the ETSU campus to house the museum given the university's origins and Johnson City's railroad history. As proposed, the project would be named for George L. Carter, the railroad magnate who donated the original land for the ETSU campus in 1911.