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Clemson planning $20M engineering center

Clemson University announced plans Thursday to build the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, which will provide advanced degrees in systems engineering at the former Navy base. The center is expected to cost $20 million, and university officials hope it will be completed in two years. (Image/Provided)
By Matt Tomsic
Published June 14, 2012

The Zucker family and Clemson University are filling a gap in the Lowcountry’s ability to develop its engineering workforce as the region’s manufacturing and technical economy expands.

Today, Anita Zucker and Clemson announced plans for the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center, which will offer advanced degrees in energy systems engineering and will be financed in part by a $5 million gift from the Zucker family. The center will be next to the Clemson University Restoration Institute at the former Navy base.

“Today we will be celebrating education at an extraordinary level,” said John Kelly, vice president for economic development at Clemson.

The center will offer master’s and doctorate degrees in energy systems engineering, and its graduates will be prepared for jobs in composite materials, energy systems, advanced computing, microscopy, aerospace and other fields.

Zucker, CEO of The InterTech Group, said the center is a first step to providing upper-level engineering education, and she noted The Citadel has worked hard to provide engineering courses for its students at the undergraduate level. Now, Zucker said, those graduates can stay in the Lowcountry to receive advanced engineering degrees, and Clemson will collaborate with The Citadel, the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina for the center’s needs.

Zucker said the center will also offer K-12 students access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education.

“We want to provide access to success,” Zucker said. “Education goes a long way toward repairing the world.”

Zucker said she hopes the faculty at the center will work with elementary, middle and high school students throughout the Lowcountry to spark their imaginations and teach them about STEM fields.

During the announcement, Kelly echoed Zucker’s K-12 focus.

“No one will be too young to be invited into the building,” he said, adding he hopes the center will build interest in STEM education.

Clemson President James Barker said the university envisions the education center following the model established by the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville. There, Barker said, Clemson established a research park with a foundation in graduate education and created the first doctorate program in automotive engineering. The project also included BMW and other automotive industry partners under the same roof as Clemson students and faculty.

Barker said the education center in the Lowcountry will be the driver for the Clemson University Restoration Institute, where the university and its business partners will test power grids and wind turbines.

Kelly said the center will be home to private businesses and academia, allowing students to interact with engineers from across the world.

The center is expected to cost $20 million, and university officials hope it will be completed in two years. Clemson is receiving proposals from architecture firms and will narrow the list to three or five firms before awarding the project. Kelly said the project is unique because it will reclaim a brownfield, and the center will be built on complex soils. Architects will also account for earthquakes and hurricanes.