UO to seek $54M from the state to renovate Huestis Hall

The University of Oregon will ask state lawmakers for $54 million in bonds next year to renovate Huestis Hall after making the project its top capital construction priority for the coming legislative session.

In May, the proposed project was submitted to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission for evaluation and scoring based on its criteria and metrics for the state. This month, the commission adopted a prioritized capital project list that is sent to Gov. Kate Brown for consideration.

The 45-year old, 60,000 square-foot building is a hub for the biological sciences at the UO. Each year 3,000 students and faculty members learn and teach in Huestis Hall labs and classrooms. Its renovation will provide much-needed improvements, including addressing critical life, safety and seismic vulnerabilities; modernizing lab learning spaces; and eliminating deferred maintenance.

“Every biennium we are in a competitive climate for the state’s bonding capacity,” President Michael Schill said. “For the 2019 session, Huestis Hall is the top priority for the UO.”

In addition to funding for the Huestis Hall renovation, the UO will partner with the six other public universities in Oregon to request at least $65 million for the capital improvement and renewal fund for the 2019-21 biennium. This funding allows universities to generate operational cost savings and invest in existing buildings on campus to fulfill educational and public missions.

Undergraduates in Huestis Hall receive rigorous training directly connected to the workforce skills necessary to meet the needs of employers from a variety of industries. In addition, it is the home to student programs and initiatives that serve underrepresented populations and expand the pipeline from K-12 to postsecondary education.

For example, the Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence, known as SPICE, and the Summer Academy to Inspire Learning, known as SAIL, both use Huestis Hall research labs. SPICE is a pipeline program that creates a learning environment where girls can thrive in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and SAIL helps local eighth- through 12th-graders from underrepresented backgrounds prepare for college.

“Huestis Hall is a core component of the UO’s undergraduate research activities, which is critical because of how research is connected to higher graduation rates, academic achievement and career preparedness,” said Josh Snodgrass, associate vice provost for undergraduate studies.

According to the UO’s project submission to the commission, the university must limit the number of students who can prepare for careers in STEM industries due to the current layout and substandard building systems in Huestis Hall. Through renovation, the UO can expand its reach, by at least 40 percent, to educate more students and equip them for the changing economy.

The governor’s office will decide whether to include the projects in its recommended budget that will be released in December.