Almost 200 people — faculty, staff, incoming freshman and their families and current students — gathered on Oct. 12 to celebrate the official opening of the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, or ILSB, during the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Homecoming celebrations.
The building, which has been open for classes since the beginning of the fall 2019 semester, “represents [UMBC’s] change from the economy of teaching to the economy of learning or efficiency of learning,” noted William LaCourse, the dean of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences.
The ILSB does not have any lecture halls. Instead, it hosts four teaching labs, eight interactive learning classrooms, four seminar rooms and six collaborative project rooms. The ground floor lobby also includes open seating for students to complete their work in between classes.
Most notably, the building features an art installation called “In Flight,” designed by architect Volkan Alkanoglu, and dubbed a “statement of innovation” by Ken Skrzesz, the executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council, who was among the six presenters at the opening ceremony.
Before designing the piece, Alkanoglu conducted a survey of students, faculty and staff to understand what they wanted to see in the installation. Alkanoglu also looked at pictures of UMBC students’ research for inspiration. What resulted was something that ticked all of UMBC’s boxes; something “colorful, dynamic, complex [and] timeless,” Alkanoglu said.
Every piece of the installation is a different size, shape and scale, and together, it “abstractly represents the culture on campus,” Alkanoglu said.
The ILSB has opened the doors for UMBC to continue expanding its interdisciplinary academic programs. Recently, UMBC received a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a Master’s program in environmental science, and the ILSB itself hosts an observation and research lab meant to study active classroom pedagogy and techniques.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who is a Republican, stopped by the ribbon-cutting ceremony to speak about his administration’s financial dedication to education. “The state of Maryland will continue to lead the way and UMBC will continue to … shine as a national leader in global innovation,” he said.
Other notable politicians in attendance included Thomas “Mike” Miller, the Maryland Speaker of the Senate; Adrienne Jones, the Maryland Speaker of the House and a UMBC alum; and John Olszewski, the Baltimore County Executive and a UMBC alum.
As President Hrabowski and Dean LaCourse used a large pair of scissors to cut the double-helix rope, reminiscent of DNA, attendees were invited inside for tours and a look into research at UMBC.
“This was a group effort,” LaCourse said. “This was a campus effort.”