Expansion-minded SMAST applies for federal approval

By Dan McDonald
NEW BEDFORD — UMass Dartmouth has submitted a fully executed application to the federal Department of Education that would give the go-ahead to the proposed SMAST expansion in the South End.
The application would allow for the transfer of the former Naval Reserve Training Center and make way for the university’s School of Marine Science and Technology to launch a $48 million expansion of its South End campus.
The expansion would allow the SMAST faculty to expand by as many as 20 new appointments by 2025. That number of faculty could support 150 students.
Currently, there are 71 graduate students in the program. All told, there are 121 faculty, staff, post doctoral students and grad students involved in the program.
The new SMAST building is expected to be “fully operational within 36 months of acquisition.”
The current SMAST set-up is inefficient and cramped, according to the application, with the existing SMAST facility at 100 percent of its capacity. In addition to its South End campus, UMass also rents space in Fairhaven for the SMAST operation. That rent costs more than $380,000 annually.
Some seminar rooms are too small and classrooms are inadequate in number and configuration, according to the application.
In Fairhaven, rooms are often overbooked, with joint use by School of Education Public Policy & Civic Engagement.
There is no space for additional classrooms, seminar rooms, laboratories, computer suites, offices and amenities, according to the application, which was signed by UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack.
UMass Dartmouth spokesman John Hoey said UMass had received a lot of support “from the city, City Council and the School Committee,” regarding the SMAST proposal.
The federal Department of Education’s acceptance and approval of the school’s proposed plan, according to MacCormack, would transform “the existing property into a dynamic, world-class marine science educational facility.”
“We don’t want to be presumptuous but we think we have a strong proposal,” Hoey said.
The expansion, according to the proposal, will include more seminar rooms and classrooms, a digital visualization laboratory, teaching and demonstration laboratories, community education and K-12 education classrooms, more graduate student cubicles and workspace, outreach and educational support offices, a teaching and demonstration laboratory, a high bay teaching and research laboratory, temperature-controlled storage, an IT facility and a supercomputing room for educational research support.
Financing for the project includes a combination of $25 million in “Build America” bonds and $20 million in state general obligation bonds.
November 03, 2011 12:00 AM
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