Plans are underway to add a new building to the Puyallup campus. The building will provide specialized labs and equipment for STEM-related classes. STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, are increasingly popular career pathways chosen by students.
The number of students enrolled in biology, chemistry, engineering and physics programs has almost doubled in size since 2010. These programs are some of the core disciplines of STEM. These students are using the same labs and classrooms that came with the campus, meaning there isn’t enough space for all of them.
“At Puyallup, we don’t actually have enough space for all the different classes we’re trying to run, we just have more students than space,” said Choi Halladay, vice president of administrative services.
Construction of the new building is still several years out, and the location of the building is currently unknown, but college officials are looking at potential plans for purchasing land adjacent to the campus.
“We’ll be doing the design of that (STEM) building over the next year, trying to figure out how to build a state-ofthe-art building,” Broxson said.
The project will cost about $36 million to $38 million and will house general classrooms, but the rooms will mostly be related to STEM, such as science labs and a wing dedicated to engineering. Additional parking is a separate project that is also being looked at. After the new building opens, the plan is to eventually remodel the labs in the Brouillet Library Science building to convert them into more general classrooms.
The goal of this is to someday have all STEM-based classes and labs located within their own building. With companies such as The Boeing Co. and Microsoft, aerospace and software industries are especially prominent in the Puget Sound.
“A lot of the industries have really led to the economic growth we’ve seen in Pierce County, and the Puget Sound area in general are STEM based,” said Tom Broxson, dean of science and math at Pierce College.
The cost of living is also more expensive than in years past, leading more individuals nationwide are pursuing STEM careers due to the higher paying wages. However, the increasing number of students has outgrown the current labs offered on the Puyallup campus.
There’s an increase in the STEM industries worldwide as well, with more people in the STEM field being brought into the area for work from out of state, as opposed to local workers. The increasing availability, demand and pay for these jobs makes a career relating to STEM appealing to some students.
According to Broxson, the Puyallup campus has a higher number of students pursuing a STEM pathway than at the Fort Steilacoom campus. Fort Steilacoom has a state-of-the-art building, but Broxson theorizes that the higher number of STEM students at Puyallup is possibly related to the number of registered students who have parents or relatives that work in the field. Students aiming for STEM careers are either pursuing associate degrees at Pierce and transferring to four-year universities or are pursuing primarily associate of science degrees.
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