The University of Kansas School of Engineering officially opened doors on more than 135,000 square feet of world-class research, classroom and student collaboration space at the dedication ceremony for Learned Engineering Expansion Phase 2 (LEEP2) on Oct. 30, 2015.
The facility seamlessly integrates with Learned Hall, Spahr Library and the Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center. It features six active-learning classrooms, teaching and research labs, a remodeled library, a café and numerous new collaboration and study spaces. LEEP2 also houses the ExxonMobil Student Success Suite, which includes academic services, recruitment and retention operations, and offices for minority programs and women’s programs. LEEP2 is also home to the Engineering Career Center.
“This project is a real testament to what can happen when our university collaborates with people outside the bounds of our campus,” KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said to the crowd of students, alumni, faculty, business leaders and donors gathered in the McClendon Atrium for the dedication ceremony. “By working together, we have been able to create this beautiful new space where our students can take advantage of state-of-the-art technology, and work in teams to address grand challenges.”
The Kansas Board of Regents made the project possible by passing the University Engineering Initiative Act of 2011. This act called for state universities in Kansas to bolster their engineering departments and increase the number of students graduating with engineering degrees. Dean of the School of Engineering Michael Branicky said the legislation has been extremely beneficial to KU and the state of Kansas.
“The passage of the University Engineering Initiative Act four years ago created the opportunities that have led us to where we are today,” Branicky said. “We are opening doors for new opportunities for our students and faculty, and on a broader scale, opening doors for engineering and computing throughout Kansas. The more quality graduates that KU Engineering produces, the more it helps Kansas companies – and that’s a direct benefit to the entire state.”
In addition to what the building will do for KU and the state of Kansas, it represents new opportunities for students.
“We are celebrating much more than a place of learning. For us, this is the place we call home during our years at KU,” said Katlyn Meggers, Engineering Student Council President and a junior in chemical engineering. “These buildings are a place where we spend late nights cheering on the Jayhawks and the Royals, socialize over late night pizza runs, and race chairs through the hallways. They are a place where we can create friendships and memories that last a lifetime."
LEEP2 features several spaces and enhancements made possible by individual and corporate donors.
- The LEEP2 Atrium is named the McClendon Atrium thanks to the generosity of Brian and Beth Ellyn McClendon. Brian McClendon is a 1986 KU electrical engineering graduate, co-creator of Google Earth and 2015 inductee to the National Academy of Engineering.
- The employee-owners of Burns & McDonnell funded the Burns & McDonnell Student Lounge.
- The ExxonMobil Student Success Suite is named in recognition of the ExxonMobil Foundation and ExxonMobil employees and retirees in the Jayhawk family.
- The Koch Unit Operations Laboratory was made possible by 1969 chemical engineering graduate Kyle Vann, retired CEO of Entergy-Koch and Koch-Glitsch.
- Textron Aviation made the Textron Aviation Aerospace Engineering Design Laboratory possible.
As part of the expansion project, the new Structural Testing and Student Projects Facility on KU’s West District houses dedicated student, faculty and graduate research space as well as a 40-foot high strong wall. This world-class structure allows students to perform real-life structural tests rather than scaling them for smaller labs. The facility also includes dedicated space for senior design labs, student groups and clubs. Mechanical engineering seniors have been the first groups to use the new facility on west campus.