Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, Feb. 2, to celebrate the construction of the $44 million Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center.
Construction of the center is made possible thanks to a $30 million gift from John and Rosemary Brown, which was announced as part of an overall $57 million gift, the largest in university history, in April 2015 at the Because This is Auburn — A Campaign for Auburn University kickoff event. Site preparation for the project began December 2016 with the demolition of the Engineering Shops and L Building. Construction is anticipated to be completed by spring 2019. This project will complete more than $65 million in new construction and renovation on the engineering campus.
“John and Rosemary’s transformational gift will enable the college to construct a facility capable of significantly transforming the personal and professional successes of tomorrow’s Auburn engineers by providing students with the highest level of hands-on experiences and academic support throughout their college experience,” said Chris Roberts, dean of engineering. “Redefining engineering education in a changing world and training engineers inside and outside the classroom is a vital part of our vision. This facility will enable the college to build the infrastructure to make this a reality.”
Located in the heart of campus, the center will specifically address students’ professional and academic needs, providing one of the most comprehensive, active-learning environments in the country. In cohesion with the college’s vision to provide the best student-centered engineering educational experience in America, the center will also create greater opportunities for collaboration among faculty members and fellow students, creating a sense of “home” within the engineering campus.
Designed to serve students from all engineering disciplines, it will incorporate high-contact initiatives through student recruitment, curriculum advising, career mentoring and placement, tutoring, international experiences, career development and corporate relations.
The first floor of the building is expected to include a design and innovation center, which will consist of student maker spaces, laboratories, shops, project incubators, study rooms, flexible classrooms, computer labs and more, while also serving as the home for engineering student organizations. The second floor will house a tutoring and learning center, academic advising center, student recruitment center, career development and corporate relations center, the Engineering Academic Excellence Program and offices for support staff. The third floor will incorporate ample, spacious student study areas with large-group and small-group study rooms, along with boardrooms, conference rooms and auditoriums all outfitted with the latest smart technologies.
Benefactors John Brown and Rosemary Kopel Brown graduated from Auburn University in 1957 with bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry, respectively. John began his career with Ormet in 1957 before moving to work with rocket propellants at Thiokol in 1961. From there, John worked with Squibb before taking over as president of Edward Weck & Company. His success at Weck eventually led him to Stryker as its president, CEO and chairman of the board. There, he took the company public and increased revenue from $17 million in 1976 to $10 billion today. Rosemary began her career as a mathematics teacher, a position she held for almost 30 years, and impacted hundreds of students along the way.
In addition to their support of Auburn, Rosemary has also served on many community boards of directors, including Freed Hardeman University, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and currently with the Atlanta Opera. John has served on the boards of St. Jude Medical and the American Business Conference.
John and Rosemary have demonstrated a strong commitment to Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering throughout their careers, and have been recognized by many organizations for professional achievement and excellence. John is an inductee in the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and Auburn University’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, and he also received honorary law degrees from Freed Hardeman University and Kalamazoo College. He is a recipient of the Auburn Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was the inaugural recipient of the AdvaMed Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served on the Auburn University Foundation board and has been recognized by the College of Engineering as a Distinguished Auburn Engineer.
Consistent with the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering's goal to provide the best student-centered engineering experience in America, the construction of the engineering student achievement center will create a comprehensive facility capable of significantly transforming the personal and professional success of tomorrow’s Auburn engineers.
Designed to serve all engineering students from every field of study, the center will incorporate high-contact initiatives that support students through:
This center will provide a unique venue for students to participate in the practical application of engineering through multidisciplinary, team-oriented design projects. With access to supervised workspaces, machine shops, additive manufacturing tools and electronics shops, students can engage in collaborative and active-learning opportunities through hands-on projects that develop creativity in engineering design and innovation.
Students will be enabled to actively explore career opportunities and professional development opportunities in the engineering profession. Through one-on-one mentoring with professionals, organized field trips to observe engineering in action and group discussions with practicing engineers, this program will help students align with a field of engineering that fits their interests and goals. This office will also create a "one-stop shop" for students to investigate cooperative education and internships, as well as full-time job placement. Resources such as company presentations, interview seminars and recruiting events, as well as regular engagement with industry and professional schools, will educate students about their pre- and post-graduation options. Additionally, students can engage directly with companies to improve placement rates with top-ranked corporations.
The Engineering Academic Excellence Program enhances the recruitment and retention of underrepresented engineering students within the college. This program has assisted the college in growing our diversity initiatives, especially in the areas of academic success, financial awards, recruiting, and career mentoring. The Academic Excellence Program also provides an Engineering Summer Enrichment Program, a living learning community, collaborative groups, interactive labs and tutoring, professional development, career counseling, co-ops and internship placement.
A vital component of this new center will be our Tutoring and Learning Suite. Every student is more apt to reach his or her full potential in the challenging and rigorous engineering curriculum with regular, on-demand academic assistance. Ready access to tutoring can significantly improve the academic performance and success of students. This center will provide tutoring at all levels through a formalized program utilizing exceptional teaching assistants.
Providing guidance to students as they choose a major, determine class load and make plans for a specific course of study is critically important in the early stages of their college career. Dependable, ongoing access to advisers increases the likelihood that students will seek guidance and adhere to an individualized academic plan.
The ability to attract the finest students begins with focused, intentional recruiting efforts at both the undergraduate and graduate level. This is often the college's first opportunity to make an impression. Concerted, individual recruiting enables us to bring high-achieving students to Auburn who strengthen our instructional and research programs. Scholarships reward and attract strong performing students, and in many cases are critical for engineering students with financial need.
Beyond the classroom, engineering students have the opportunity to be part of many activities and organizations in the College of Engineering. This suite will serve as a home base for the Engineering Student Council and for all engineering organizations.
Auburn Engineering is committed to providing an exceptional education that prepares graduates for meaningful and productive careers while equipping them to contribute immediately to the global workforce. This requires defining engineering education in a changing world and training engineers inside and outside the classroom. This engineering student achievement center will enable the college to build the infrastructure to make this vision a reality and position the college to seek additional funding to support programs and initiatives housed within this center.
With the largest gift in school history, John and Rosemary Brown, both 1957 Auburn graduates, kicked off the Because This is Auburn campaign by committing $57 million to the university to fund two major new facilities: an engineering student achievement center will be constructed with $30 million of the gift, with most of the remainder used to build a new performing arts center.
This state-of-the-art engineering achievement center will enhance a multitude of student support activities, including student recruitment, curriculum advising, tutoring, career mentoring, job placement and an career development and corporate relations center. The center will also create space for student maker spaces and an engineering international experience office.
“We are very happy to give back to Auburn,” said John, a chemical engineering graduate. “Auburn was a transformative educational experience for us, preparing Rosemary for her career in teaching and laying the foundation for my various roles in industry.”
John began his career with Ormet in 1957 before moving to work with rocket propellants at Thiokol in 1961. From there, John worked with Squibb before taking over as president of Edward Weck & Company. His success at Weck eventually led him to Stryker as its president, CEO and chairman of the board. There, he took the company public in just two years, while also increasing revenue from $17 million in 1976 to currently more than $9 billion annually. Rosemary began her career as a mathematics teacher, a position she held for almost 30 years before she retired. John and Rosemary have demonstrated a strong commitment to Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering throughout their careers. In addition to his professional achievements, John is an inductee in the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Auburn Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an inductee into Auburn University’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, an honorary law degree recipient from both Freed Hardeman University and Kalamazoo College, and the inaugural recipient of the AdvaMed Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been recognized by the College of Engineering as a Distinguished Auburn Engineer.
They have remained committed to Auburn University, previously establishing scholarships in engineering, science and mathematics and veterinary medicine, while also endowing an eminent scholar chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The Browns are members of the engineering Ginn and Eagles societies, as well as the university’s 1856 and Foy societies.
“We wanted to do something that not only impacted Auburn students, but also something that would impact the entire community,” Rosemary Brown said. “That is why we decided to do both the student center and the performing arts center.”
The College of Engineering has raised more than $217 million as part of its $200 million campaign goal, while the university has raised more than $1.03 billion to date in support of the Because This is Auburn campaign, the largest in Auburn’s history and one of the largest fundraising campaigns to date in the state.
“Today, we show the world why we believe in Auburn University,” said Auburn President Jay Gogue at the campaign kickoff event. “This effort is unprecedented in Auburn’s 160-year history. This campaign will add new chapters to Auburn’s story and will make Auburn stronger for all the generations that follow.”