The University of North Texas at Dallas (UNT Dallas) is celebrating the Texas legislature’s recent funding for capital projects in higher education, receiving its most substantial investment from the state to date. The university will receive $100 million for the construction of a new science building – a game-changing addition to the university at a time when professionals in health care and science-related fields are needed more than ever. UNT Dallas was the only university of its size to receive funding at such a significant level.
“The effort to bring a science building to UNT Dallas was four years in the making, led by Dr. Stewart’s planning, by building coalitions of legislative and community support and concluding with the critical vote in the House and Senate awarding us $100 million,” said UNT Dallas President Bob Mong.
Located in the historically underserved southern Dallas region, UNT Dallas is the only four-year public university in the City of Dallas and has been committed to bridging the education gap that exists in Dallas-Fort Worth by providing quality and affordable degree programs to local students – many under-represented and economically challenged. This funding for a new science building means greater opportunity for underserved students to receive a STEM education and enter career fields previously unattainable.
“The new science building will provide our students with an opportunity to transform their lives through careers in healthcare and science-related fields,” said UNT Dallas Provost Betty Stewart. With a background in biochemistry, Dr. Stewart has been a champion for STEM education at UNT Dallas and an advocate for construction of the new building, leading funding efforts over the last four years.
Construction of the new building will accelerate rapidly growing STEM programs at UNT Dallas, which have seen exponential enrollment increases in recent years. Since spring 2017, biology majors have grown 2600% (from 10 to 260 total); public health majors have grown 1820% (from 5 to 91 total); and information technology majors have grown 570% (from 23 to 134 total).
In response to growing demand, the university has steadily increased course offerings in the sciences, but currently lacks adequate on-site facilities to meet growing needs in these high-demand areas. Many UNT Dallas students are currently required to take their laboratory classes at a nearby community college. The new science building will address current challenges providing much-needed classroom space and research laboratories. Early plans for the new building include flexible teaching laboratories, collaborative research laboratories, active learning classrooms, space for faculty, and informal collaborative spaces throughout the building.
University science faculty are especially excited by the recent announcement. “This is a complete game-changer,” said Muhammed Yousufuddin, UNT Dallas Assistant Professor of Chemistry. “A new science building will allow us to substantially expand our science programs in areas that were not possible before because of lack of resources and infrastructure. It will also give us an edge in recruiting not just students, but faculty as well.”
But the positive impact of a new science building extends beyond UNT Dallas students and faculty, supporting the local and regional workforce, creating more jobs at the university – the largest employer in southern Dallas County – and helping to tackle the state’s healthcare worker shortages.
UNT Dallas already actively participates in pathway programs aimed at developing healthcare professionals, including the Joint Admissions Medical Program (JAMP) to provide a pathway for outstanding STEM majors to enter medical school. UNT Dallas has also forged a strong partnership with the UNT Health Science Center, a premier postgraduate medical education institution in North Texas, to establish a pipeline for healthcare education and to address a projected state shortage of 3,375 primary care physicians by 2030.
“This new building will directly support programs in public health that address the need for preventative healthcare within the local community, which is generally less healthy than other areas of North Texas,” said Dr. Stewart. “And while the purpose of the new STEM building is to accommodate current needs, it will also allow new programs and graduate medical education programs to incubate and develop as part of a holistic approach to regional healthcare.”
Plans for the new building are in the early stages, but university leaders anticipate an opening in 2025.