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IU Celebrates Groundbreaking For SPEA's O'Neill Graduate Center
Updated January 27, 2016 8:15 AM | Filed under: Education
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From left, Indiana University Trustees Philip N. Eskew Jr. and Anna M. Williams, IU President Michael A. McRobbie and IU Executive Vice President and Provost Lauren Robel take part in a ceremonial groundbreaking for SPEA's Paul H. O'Neill Graduate Center on Jan. 26 at the IU Auditorium.

(BLOOMINGTON) - Indiana University Bloomington celebrated the groundbreaking of the Paul H. O'Neill Graduate Center at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The $12 million, 28,000-square-foot, glass-walled graduate center will adjoin SPEA's current building on East 10th Street. It will provide technologically advanced learning and meeting spaces for SPEA's top-ranked and growing graduate programs in public affairs, environmental management and environmental science. Construction has begun and is expected to be completed in early 2017 with a goal of LEED Gold certification.

Private donations will fund about half of the building's construction, including a $3 million gift from Paul H. O'Neill, an IU alumnus and former U.S. secretary of the treasury and chairman and CEO of Alcoa.

"As we break ground for the O'Neill Graduate Center, all of us look forward to a facility that will help SPEA's students and faculty make important and lasting contributions that will strengthen our state, our nation and our world," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who spoke at the groundbreaking.

SPEA has grown dramatically since its founding in 1972 and the construction of its existing home in 1982 that it has now outgrown. The current class of graduate students is the largest in the school's history, as is the full-time faculty roster that now numbers nearly 100. SPEA's rank and reputation have also grown. It is the world's largest and highest-ranked school of its type.

"SPEA has epitomized the values at the core of our mission as a public university," Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said. "Its faculty, students and staff explore innovative solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing the world today, and they embrace the commitment to community service that defines Indiana University Bloomington. The Paul O'Neill Graduate Center will expand the impact and reach of the amazing work done in SPEA."

Others speakers at the ceremony included SPEA Dean John D. Graham and SPEA graduate students Daniel Esposito and Yasmine El-Gohary. Graham represented a large contingent of faculty, staff and students who walked from SPEA to the ceremony at IU Auditorium in an informal procession the school dubbed "Forward Together."

"The center will give our students and faculty room to collaborate," Graham said. "The classrooms and meeting spaces will have the latest technology yet nurture old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. The design is sleek and modern, yet warm and inviting. It will be a powerful magnet as we continue to recruit the very best graduate students and faculty members worldwide."

SPEA graduate student leader El-Gohary said the building will be both a magnet and a launching pad.

"The O'Neill Center will be a beautiful space," El-Gohary said. "But I believe its purpose is not so much for drawing us in as for sending us out. And if I know anything about my fellow SPEA students, we won't let it stay pristine for long. We will use this space -- to share ideas, to experiment, to debate, to dream, to dissent. And we will leave this space prepared and inspired."

Esposito, president of SPEA's Graduate Student Association, said inspiration also comes from the benefactors.

"We admire and applaud Mr. O'Neill for his public service, his corporate leadership, his advocacy and his philanthropy," he said. "He is, as we at SPEA often say, a leader for the greater good. The opportunity to study in a building that bears his name is both a gift and a challenge. As we watch the O'Neill Center go up, let's be reminded of what it looks like to contribute to something bigger than ourselves."

The building will house three student commons areas totaling about 3,000 square feet as well as classrooms and faculty offices. The design will incorporate IU's traditional limestone building materials and feature a multistory glass curtain wall facing 10th Street.

The three-story, environmentally sustainable structure was designed by BSA Life Structures.

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