Construction is nearly complete at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Building at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, setting the stage for employees to move there in August, according to a university official overseeing the project.

Construction is nearly complete at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Building at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, setting the stage for employees to move there in August, according to a university official overseeing the project.


The 29,000-square-foot building features four classrooms, one study lounge, a computer laboratory, a conference room, a 400-seat conference center and a reflective pool, said Mary E. Benjamin, UAPB vice chancellor for the office of research, innovation and economic development. The existing older building is 12,000 square feet, which is too cramped, she said.


The construction of the STEM Building cost nearly $10 million, she said. It is scheduled to be completed by Thursday and faculty members will be arriving in August, she said. The plans are to have an official opening ceremony in early November to coincide with homecoming festivities, she said.


"We are really encouraged and deeply appreciate of all parties who made this building possible," Benjamin said. "Our students are most deserving. Society will be enhanced by their future contributions.


"We are excited and ready to move in," she said. "We were so cramped in our previous [building]. We needed space to spread out."


Money to construct the building came from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, state Sen. Linda Chesterfield, state Rep. Charles Armstrong, St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church, former UAPB Interim Chancellor Carolyn Blakely and the Title III Program.


The construction manager is Dallas-based Con-Real, and the architect is Little Rock-based Woods Architect Group, Benjamin said.


UAPB STEM quality control representative O.C. Duffy said that the walls incorporate wheat and other organic materials in an effort to reduce the impact on the environment. The only problem related to the project occurred when a construction employee fell from the second floor and landed on the ground, he said.


"He was not seriously injured and was taken to the hospital for treatment," Duffy said. "He was back at work the next day."


The building will recycle water to minimize its environmental impact and also save money, he said. The building will offer greater opportunities to students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff runs an education program called the STEM Academy for high school students who are going to enter college in the fall. This program operates with money provided by the National Science Foundation and received by UAPB as a historically black university, she said.


At a ceremony held at Harbor Oaks Restaurant on Thursday, Benjamin advised the students to thank their parents for supporting them, not to be entitled, make wise decisions, network with people and pursue their dreams.


"You have got a lot of people opening doors for you. The question becomes, ‘Are you going to walk through the door?’" Benjamin told the students. "You have shown the stamina and willingness to be successful."


She said that scientists face important tasks from designing drainage systems and designing bridges to researching cures for diseases. Toward that end, she dared them to pursue lofty goals.


"We need a cure for cancer and AIDS," Benjamin said.


To be successful, she advised the students to find a professor as a mentor, be adventurous, be honest, avoid crime and know oneself.


"Do not let anyone put you down," she said. "A psychologist friend of mine told me, ‘You have to be comfortable in your own skin.’"