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Boston College Plans To Build $150M Science Facility And Offer New Engineering Major

Boston College students walk across the college campus. (AP)
Boston College students walk across the college campus. (AP)

Boston College is betting big on the sciences.

The private Jesuit school, better known for its philosophy and economics programs, unveiled plans Friday for a $150 million science facility that will bring a new engineering major to campus.

School officials are calling it an ambitious step forward that combines the college's longstanding strength in the liberal arts with its newer expansion into the sciences.

The crowning jewel of the 150,000-square-foot facility will be a new integrated science institute named after Apple executive Phil Schiller and his wife, Kim Gassett-Schiller, who donated $25 million for the project.

Schiller, a 1982 graduate of the school, said the institute aims to give scholars from the humanities and the sciences a place to team up on major global problems.

"This is where the best work comes from, as diverse minds with different experiences try to understand a problem together and solve things as a team," said Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. "That is where big leaps forward happen."

Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2019 at the school's campus west of Boston. It will add research laboratories, classrooms and space for students and faculty to collaborate across disciplines.

The school hopes the addition of an engineering major to campus will help give the school an edge amid competition with other major universities. Last year, it became one of 115 universities in the U.S. designated as a top research institution by the Carnegie Foundation, which classifies schools based on their research spending and staffing levels, among other factors.

The shift follows in the steps of other private schools that have pursued aggressive expansions into science and research fields, which can add prestige — and a source of revenue — for universities.

Nearby Harvard University is continuing work on a $1 billion science and engineering complex in Boston's Allston neighborhood after the project was put on hold amid an economic slump in 2010.

North Carolina's Wake Forest University also introduced a new engineering program this year, blending a science curriculum with the private school's liberal arts tradition.

Boston College officials say the new Schiller institute aims to tackle projects ranging from the development of clean energy to technology that can diagnose and treat humans in poor areas around the world.

The school enrolls about 15,000 students at its campus west of Boston. Last year, it had the 40th largest endowment among U.S. colleges, valued at nearly $2.1 billion, according to an annual study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

School President William Leahy thanked Schiller for the donation on Friday, saying it will "have a profound effect on the university's ability to address pressing societal needs through advanced scientific research."



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