Changes for the Better

Renovations for the Social Science Building Are on the Horizon

Every day, more than 4,000 people navigate the halls of Weber State University’s 44-year-old Social Science building. They endure wild ranges in temperature — one room is sweltering, the next is icy. Often confused by the floorplan, they wander the narrow halls and steep stairwells in search of classrooms, labs and professors’ offices. As alumni of WSU, you are probably familiar with the peculiarities of the building.

The problems are especially difficult for departments that require science labs, such as criminal justice. But, thanks to a $5 million donation from longtime university advocate and benefactor John E. Lindquist, the Social Science building is one step closer to an extensive remodel. When the renovations are complete, the new building will be called Lindquist Hall, in honor of the Lindquist family.

That’s exciting news for faculty and students alike, and they’re beginning to look eagerly to the future.

For example, Brent Horn, associate criminal justice professor and forensics director, teaches courses in the forensic science lab, where temperatures vary wildly, yellowish rusty water runs from the taps, and the room’s narrow brown counters are so low to the ground that many taller students can barely fit their legs beneath them. But one of his greatest challenges in the lab is that it lacks adaptability.

"The counters are attached to the floor and can’t be moved for greater floor space," Horn says. "When the lights are turned out, the natural sunlight from outside prevents the level of darkness needed for certain exercises. And the narrow counters make it difficult to do activities that require placing equipment on the countertops."

A new design, featuring moveable furnishings, better control of lighting, and the ability to open the separate lab spaces into one large area, would address most of the frustrations Horn and his students deal with daily.

"This space was designed for the original state crime lab," says Horn, explaining the existing setup, "but the problem is that we now have a lot more interest in the program, a lot more students coming through, and we teach different information because of the technologies and advancements that have come along in the last few years."

Because the facilities and equipment can’t support more people at once, the forensic department limits the number of students who can take courses.

"If I had a space large enough to accommodate more students, I wouldn’t have to teach the same class to multiple groups in a semester," Horn says. "That free period could allow me to add an entirely new course to the catalog."

Criminal justice student Kellie Plumhof would love to see a new course in ballistics. "I know my fellow students and I have shown interest in the subject," she says. "I would also like to see the lab be able to accommodate independent research by students."

Most of all, the renovations will help students better prepare for their careers.

While Plumhof won’t be around to see the renovations take place — she’s graduating in the spring of 2017 — she can’t wait to see the upgrades to the building. "I would like to be able to return to WSU a few years from now and see the renovations," she says. "It will be nice to see how the program has become even better and how it allows students to do more with their time as undergrads."

The university is requesting just under $30 million in state funding to complete the extensive renovation of the building. In addition to classroom and lab upgrades, the renovation master plans call for removal of the heavy concrete slabs that surround the exterior walls. That change will improve seismic stability and allow windows to provide natural light. The 13,000-square-foot porch will be enclosed to provide student gathering space and large lecture rooms

Frank Harrold, dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, says the overhaul of the building will be a great benefit to the students of the university, especially those whose majors fall within the college.

"The renovated Lindquist Hall will be a wonderful facility that will enhance the education we can offer our students," he says. If funding is approved, a new horizon in social and behavioral science education is on its way. WSU students, faculty, staff and the community will welcome Lindquist Hall and all it will have to offer.