By Kelsey Stewart, News Editor
Dreams became reality on the UNO campus Oct. 24 with groundbreaking ceremonies for the Biomechanics Research Building and the Community Engagement center. The separate ceremonies, held outside the HPER building, drew hundreds from the community.
“Today is truly exciting,” said Chancellor John Christensen. “It’s an exciting and special day to the University of Nebraska at Omaha.”
The 23,000-square-foot Biomechanics Research Building will be the first free-standing building in the world of its kind, said Nancy Edick, dean of the College of Education.
Ruth and Bill Scott are lead donors to the $6 million project. It will be completed in 2013.
The Scott family attended the groundbreaking ceremony and received thanks from Chancellor John Christensen, HPER Director Daniel Blanke and Director of the Nebraska Biomechanics Core Facility Dr. Nicholas Stergiou.
“To quote Ruth Scott, ‘I’ll never forget the first time I met Dr. Stergiou and heard about his amazing research. He and his staff are improving the lives of people of all ages throughout the world. It’s incredibly inspiring,'” Christensen said. “I would add that the commitment made by Ruth and Bill Scott to ensure this new facility became a reality is also incredibly inspiring.”
Blanke spoke of the challenges of renovation and addition projects experienced during construction at HPER.
“We know what it’s like to deal with all the dust, dirt, the cold drafts, the ever changing routes to an office or classroom but the outcome is definitely worth the wait,” Blanke said.
Stergiou recalled when the building was only a piece of paper.
“Today is when the impossible became possible,” Stergiou said. “Today is when you realize that there is no dream that cannot be realized.”
He thanked his staff who come from 12 different countries but came to UNO with the common goal of serving through research.
Biomechanics is a growing field, Stergiou said. The building will put Nebraska at the front of the field for years to come.
“Nebraska can now dominate on a global level and win every year the superbowl of biomechanics,” Stergiou said.
The facility has already put UNO on the biomechanics map. In 2015, UNO will host the national conference of the American Biomechanics Society.
“Seven hundred biomechanists, nerds like me, will come from everywhere to our wonderful city,” Stergiou said.
Biomechanics Lab Manager Jenna Yentes said the facility will give students everything they need to become the next generation of great scientists.
The groundbreaking itself implemented biomechanics technology through a video.
The 60,000-square-foot Community Engagement Center is expected to be completed in 2014. The $24 million dollar project has three lead donors–the Barbara and Wally Weitz Family Foundation, Ruth and Bill Scott and Union Pacific.
The building will allow UNO to set a standard for metropolitan university engagement, Christensen said.
“Our engagement with the community has been incredibly meaningful and it has enriched our teaching, learning and research while at the same time adding value to the community and its citizens,” Christensen said.
In 2015, UNO will host the national convention of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities.
In the past month, UNO has hosted two community engagement experts, Barbara Holland and Ira Harkavy. Both said the facility will be transformational for UNO’s strong engagement agenda, Christensen said.
Barbara and Wally Weitz were original supporters of the university’s original ventures into service learning, Christensen said.
“They risked. They invested. They helped us,” Christensen said. “This clearly was a catalyst for all that we’re going to celebrate today.”
B.J. Reed, senior vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, has been instrumental in planning and developing the new center.
“UNO’s mission as a metropolitan university hinges on its connection with the community,” Reed said.
Last year, UNO had 118 service learning courses involving more than 1,800 students. This semester, there are 84 service learning courses involving more than 1,400 students, Reed said.
UNO also hosts 16 service days that involve more than 3,100 students who work more than 17,000 hours, Reed said.
“It really will ensure that UNO and the University of Nebraska are leaders in serving our communities and enriching the lives of our family, friends and neighbors,” Reed said. “This will help make a great city and a great state even greater.”