The Board of Trustees for the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) met in Morganton today for the first scheduled meeting of 2017-2018. During the meeting, the educational program plan and the campus master plan for the NCSSM-Morganton campus were presented. This included a presentation of the planning process and engagement activities from Kevin Baxter, Director of Western Campus Planning at NCSSM; a presentation of the educational program plan from Trip Stallings, Director of Policy Research at the Friday Institute; review of a regional asset inventory by the UNC Development Finance Initiative (DFI); and a presentation of the campus master plan from Turan Duda, Partner, and Darren Lathan, Senior Associate at Duda|Paine Architects.
Following the presentations, formal recommendations to approve the educational program and campus master plan for NCSSM-Morganton were presented to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees approved the measures unanimously. “Today is a huge milestone in the 38-year life of this institution,” says Tom Williams, Chair of the NCSSM Board of Trustees.
“The new NCSSM campus in Morganton will strengthen our efforts to deliver a world-class STEM education to many more of our state’s most talented students and will serve as an economic engine for the Western region of North Carolina,” said UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette. “An expansion of this magnitude takes forward-thinking, investment, and an unprecedented level of coordination and support from state policymakers and local leaders. I applaud the efforts of all those working to make this vision become a reality.”
Educational program plan
The educational program plan was presented by Trip Stallings, Director of Policy Research at the Friday Institute. Stallings reviewed guiding academic principles, school structure, concept area recommendations, as well as external partnerships key to the plan. Highlights include creating a Teaching and Learning Innovation Collaboratory, and potential course focus areas such as environmental science, energy, climate science, computational/data science, health science, and sustainability.
Campus master plan
The campus master plan was developed and presented by Duda|Paine Architects, and highlights spaces for innovation, collaboration, and green space. Turan Duda, Partner at Duda|Paine, shared the principals that have guided the master plan—identity, community, connectivity, flexibility, environmental stewardship, and wellness. Adaptive reuse will be key, says Darren Lathan, Senior Associate at Duda|Paine, and the campus will embrace historically and architecturally significant buildings on the eastern ridge of the North Carolina School for the Deaf. The campus will include intentional connectivity with the adjacent School for the Deaf and Western Piedmont Community College; flexible and stable lab space, and highlight living-learning space and the “24-hour cycle” of the student experience.
Planning process, partners
“This is an incredibly exciting campus and educational plan,” says NCSSM Chancellor Todd Roberts. “This is a really unique opportunity for NCSSM and I’m thrilled with us reaching this milestone in the planning process today.” The plans were shaped over nine months, with the work of both professional partners as well as a Core Planning Team, and the input of many others. “Literally thousands of people have had input into this process,” says Roberts.
Many of those involved in the planning process were present not only at Friday’s board meeting, but at a public unveiling of the plans on Thursday evening, held at the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium (CoMMA). An audience of more than 350 attended the unveiling, which was also streamed live via the school’s Livestream channel, with more than 100 others tuning in live. Following the unveiling, 225 representatives of NCSSM and the NCSSM-Morganton planning team gathered together with local community partners for a reception held at the Morganton Community House.
“We are so grateful for the Morganton community, the Unifour community, and the entire expanded Western NC community for welcoming us,” says Baxter. Remarking on the turnout for these events, as well as the engagement throughout this project, Roberts remarked, “I think it really shows how the Morganton community and the Unifour community has embraced this project for years now, and we are just so appreciative of this support.”
These presentations represent the culmination of the advance planning process, although, Baxter notes, plans will continue to evolve and change between now and when the campus opens in 2021. “These are blueprints,” says Baxter, “and they are critically important in setting a path moving forward. But, as opportunities present themselves over the next four years, we will continue to adapt and change.”
“Our best and brightest students will soon have another outstanding opportunity to receive a premier education that places a heavy emphasis on science and math curriculum,” said UNC President Margaret Spellings. “I would like to thank Chancellor Roberts and everyone else who has supported our efforts to build this new campus.”
Says Stallings: “The real exciting work starts today.”