Southern Arkansas University took great strides toward meeting the needs of current and future students by breaking ground for one new building and an expansion for another on Monday, November 25, 2019.
Dr. Trey Berry, SAU president, along with faculty and members of the University’s Board of Trustees, used blue and gold shovels to symbolically break ground for the expansion of the Richard O. Oliver Band Hall and the new one-story Education Building to be constructed between the Wharton Nursing Building and Blanchard Hall.
At the ceremony for the new Education Building, Dr. Berry spoke about how excited he is for the College of Education to get a new building. He also referenced the growth he has seen in the College’s enrollment.
Dr. David Lanoue, provost and vice president for academic affairs, spoke about the bright future of the College of Education. He credited Dr. Kim Bloss, dean of the College of Education, with the department’s success, calling her a transformational leader.
Dr. Bloss also spoke, calling it a “great day to be a Mulerider.” She said the new Education Building will have state-of-the-art teaching tools in its classrooms.
Dr. Berry noted that putting all education programs together under one roof will be beneficial to students as well as faculty.
Those attending included Dr. Donna Allen, vice president for student affairs; Roger Giles, vice president for administration; Josh Kee, vice president for advancement; Monty Harrington, SAU Board member; Sheryl Edwards, assistant to the president; Dr. Neelie Dobbins, Teacher Education Department chair; Robert Nash, director of physical plant, and Cait Light, Miss SAU and College of Education student.
A second ceremony was held at the Oliver Band Hall where the rehearsal room will be expanded to accommodate skyrocketing growth. Dr. Berry said the Mulerider Band has grown by such leaps and bounds since the Oliver Band Hall opened in 2008 that expansion is necessary.
Plans call for the rehearsal hall to be increased from 3,264 square feet to 6,632 square feet. The extension reflects the surge in enrollment that has had a positive impact on the band and SAU overall. The band this year has about 160 members.
The west side of the building will be extended toward Dolph Camp, providing space for decades to come. “What we are going to have here will be staggering,” said J.P. Wilson, director of bands. “Our students cannot wait to see this expansion.”
He thanked SAU’s administration for always supporting the band as well as the expansion project. “We have literally outgrown our resources,” Wilson said. He estimated that the expansion should be complete and ready for use by fall semester 2020.
Those attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the rehearsal hall expansion included Dr. Helmut Langerbein, dean of the College of Liberal and Performing Arts; Michael Britt, director of percussion; David Torres, director of athletic bands, and other SAU officials as well as band students.