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Evers signs bill allowing new UW-Madison engineering building to move forward

Funding also unlocked for capital improvement projects at UW-Whitewater

A new 395,000-square-foot facility that would replace the 64,000-square-foot building at 1410 Engineering Drive would give the College of Engineering the modern space to educate many more engineering students and position the College to stay competitive with its peers nationwide. Photo courtesy UW-Madison

Two Universities of Wisconsin campuses now have state funding to begin capital projects after months of negotiations between the Legislature and the UW Board of Regents.

Gov. Tony Evers signed legislation Wednesday releasing more than $400 million in funding for the projects as well as system-wide utility upgrades and demolition projects. UW-Madison will use the money to build a new engineering building and renovate residence halls. UW-Whitewater will renovate two academic buildings.

The money for the projects has been debated for months, tied up in a deal that included pay raises for UW employees and diversity, equity and inclusion staffing positions. The money continued to be nixed until it was approved in December by the UW Board of Regents, passed by the Legislature earlier this year and crossed the finish line with the governor’s signature Wednesday.

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UW-Madison improvements

The $347 million engineering facility at UW-Madison will be funded through $150 million in private giving and $197 million from the state of Wisconsin. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2025, with a finish date in 2028.

The building is expected to be 395,000 square feet and reach seven stories tall.

UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said she is thrilled to be able to move forward with the engineering building and that it will allow the university to grow the program.

The university says approximately 1,000 more students will be able to participate in the engineering program given the new building.

“This building will make our facilities closer to being state of the art,” Mnookin said. “Much of engineering education is hands-on and this will let us do that more and better and in more sophisticated ways.”

Chancellor Mnookin looks at the crowd as she speaks into a microphone at an outdoor ceremony.
UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin speaks during the dedication “Effigy: Bird Form,” a sculpture by Ho-Chunk artist Truman Lowe, on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, on campus in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

This project received support from 42 CEOs from some of the state’s leading employers, who urged the Legislature to release the money for the project last year.  

“We have a lot of great partnerships with companies across the state, but we’d like to be able to have even more of those, both for workforce development, but also for sponsored research and joint projects and initiatives,” Mnookin said.

She said the building will result in more highly-trained engineering graduates who can enter the Wisconsin workforce and grow the economy.

Now architecture and engineering firms SmithGroup, Continuum Architects and Planners and Ring & DuChateau will continue the design process. Mnookin said fundraising efforts for private donations will continue.

UW-Whitewater improvements

The legislation Evers signed also unlocked $75 million for UW-Whitewater. The university says the money will be used to transform two 1960s-era buildings on campus.

Winther Hall, home to The College of Education and Professional Studies, will experience the most dramatic transformation.

UW-Whitewater chancellor Corey King said the improved facilities will help the university meet the critical workforce need for adequately licensed teachers. The university says it licenses more teachers than any other university or college in Wisconsin. 

According to a recent Wisconsin Policy Forum report, the number of individuals teaching in classrooms without being fully prepared or fully licensed to teach in the areas they were hired has tripled in the last decade.

“We are committed to capital improvements. We are committed to workforce development and meeting the workforce demands. And we are committed to education in Wisconsin,” King said.

Renovations to Winther Hall will include upgrades to classrooms and offices as well as increase technology capabilities. The roof, elevators and more than 200 windows will also be replaced.

Neighboring Heide Hall, built in 1965, will also get a new roof, elevators, windows and doors.

“This is a win-win for our students and a win-win for Wisconsin,” King said.

System-wide upgrades

More than $150 million is also available for system-wide utility renovations and demolition projects.

Evers said in a statement that investing in public education must be a top priority in building a strong workforce and economy.

“Investing in Wisconsin’s world-class higher education institutions, including our UW System, is critical for doing what’s best for our kids and helping us recruit, train, and retain talented students to help address the workforce challenges that have plagued our state for generations,” Evers said.

Mnookin said the engineering building and campus upgrades were years in the making and she’s thrilled the money is available now.

“It’s a good day for Madison. It’s a good day for the Universities of Wisconsin. And it’s a good day for the state of Wisconsin, too,” Mnookin said.