When Governor Scott Walker signed the 2015-17 biennial budget on July 12, the final capital budget included $86.2 million in funding for the Chemistry Building Project.
Despite initial signs that the project might not have been funded during this budget cycle, strong support from alumni and friends of UW-Madison and the Department of Chemistry helped propel the project forward. State legislators — particularly members of the Joint Finance Committee — learned about the project’s urgency and scope of impact and became instrumental advocates who actively prioritized the project for funding in this biennial budget.
The Chemistry Building Project was ultimately enumerated in the capital budget with a total budget of $107.8 million. The State of Wisconsin will provide $86.2 million in funding (80 percent of the request) in the form of General Fund Supported Borrowing. Private gifts will help to ensure the completion of the $107.8 million project. Private support will also help to complete the fitting out of two shelled floors in the addition, which were not included in the $107.8 million state request.
The long path to this approval began in 1996, when the department first identified the long-term need for renovated and additional organic chemistry instructional laboratories. The department assessed the nature of the need and worked through the full process to include the project in the UW-Madison Campus Master Plan.
In 2012, UW System recognized the critical importance of the instructional addition and renovation effort, listing the Chemistry Building Project as one of the top System-wide building priorities. Although the project was not included in the 2013-15 capital budget, the Governor’s office recommended that UW-Madison proceed with the project’s design phase. The Chemistry Building Project became the No. 1 UW-Madison priority and No. 2 priority among UW System building project requests submitted for funding during the most recent biennial budgeting process.
The project will provide renovated and new instructional spaces for the thousands of students who take chemistry courses each year. The vast majority of students taking chemistry courses are not chemistry majors but rather students preparing for careers in STEM fields and health professions. Most of the existing undergraduate lecture halls and teaching laboratories were built in the 1960s and remain largely untouched since their original construction. The new and renovated teaching facilities will enable the department to provide safe, modern learning experiences for undergraduate chemistry students.