UW-La Crosse science center second building phase in limbo

UWL science dean hopes state Legislature will allow university to continue with $93 million science center second phase
Prairie Science Ctr Folo

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A UW-La Crosse building project is in question after Republicans blocked Gov. Tony Evers’ budget last week. Prairie Springs Science Center facility houses half of all students’ degree paths on UWL’s campus. Dean of the College of Science and Health Mark Sandheinrich said talks about building a new facility began before the 2000s.

“I came to UWL in 1988 and in the early 1990s we started speculating planning the possibility of either an addition or replacement to Cowley Hall,” Sandheinrich said.

Sandheinrich always knew he wanted to be a teacher.

“For lack of a better word, it’s been fun,” Sandheinrich said.

In his career, few things stack up to his reaction when the Prairie Springs Science Center opened in the fall of 2018. An $82-million project for students majoring in science.

The project is half done. Phase two, with a $93 million price tag, remains in limbo after Gov. Tony Evers’ budget stalled in the Legislature last week. Some lawmakers don’t think the state should spend money on buildings after the hardship the pandemic caused. Sandheinrich said Cowley Hall remains behind the times.

“It’s structurally incapable of basically being renovated,” he said.

Science education drastically changed in Sandheinrich’s 33-year career.

“We learned about science as undergraduates,” Sandheinrich said. “You didn’t do science until you were a graduate student.”

Today, students apply knowledge to legitimate research right away.

“One of my friends and good colleagues referred to modern science education as, ‘hands-on, minds-on,” Sandheinrich said.

Many take jobs in health care. An industry vital to communities if the pandemic taught us anything.

UWL professors pay students over the summer to help with research projects. Sandheinrich said he hopes the Legislature will see the need for phase two of the building.