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Discovery Hall will make mark

Discovery Hall will make mark

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It’s not by happenstance that Discovery Hall now is open and serving students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. University of Nebraska President Ted Carter and other NU officials ceremoniously opened the 90,000-square-foot, $30 million building on Monday. The ribbon cutting concluded an effort that began 20 years ago when campus officials initially discussed replacing the Otto Olsen building.

It opened in 1955. At $700,000, it was a bargain, even by 1950s standards, but by the 1990s it had reached the limits of functionality, its window air conditioners looked dated, and it had one of the leakiest roofs on campus.

In the early 1990s the acronym, “STEM” wasn’t widely used yet. However, educators at all levels were keenly aware of the need to bolster instruction in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The nation simply could not — and still cannot — risk falling behind in the global race for graduates with technical skills.

The completion of Discovery Hall bolsters UNK’s ability to train students for some of today’s hottest occupations. That’s proven by the 100% employment rate of UNK grads who hold degrees in aviation, construction management, industrial distribution, interior and product design, computer science and astronomy — all housed in Discovery Hall.

These programs and others at UNK are landing students in stimulating and lucrative careers and giving them the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of our nation’s economy and global status.

As we said earlier, it wasn’t by happenstance that Discovery Hall became a reality.

Efforts began decades ago to convince NU leadership of the need to upgrade UNK’s capacity to produce STEM graduates.

Of note, one of the prime movers in the effort to replace Otto Olsen was Galen Hadley, who had been an administrator at UNK. He is a former Kearney mayor and state senator who eventually became speaker of the Legislature from 2015 to 2017. He shepherded some of the legislation to build Discovery Hall, including LB957. That bill allows the state and university system to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to keep buildings updated and functional using renewal bonds.

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said at Monday’s ceremony that Discovery Hall will deliver STEM-educated graduates, many of whom likely will fill future jobs that haven’t even been envisioned yet.

Carter, who became NU’s new president on Jan. 1, 2020, said at the ribbon cutting, “This now will take us to a new level. As we look at the needs of the state of Nebraska, our university system graduates 11,000 students per year, and yet, we still have a hard time filling those high-skilled, high-demand, high-pay jobs that exist in our state.”

We believe Discovery Hall will make a difference. UNK will produce thousands of STEM graduates in the new facility and they’ll be some of the best-educated people in their fields.

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