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Annex work to begin in March on UNG's Oconee Campus

A nearly 13,000-square-foot addition on the University of North Georgia's Oconee Campus will add classrooms, science and language labs, and study space and commons areas for students. The space also includes additional office space for faculty.

Construction is expected to begin in early March on a $2.5 million annex on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Oconee Campus that will add much-needed classroom and laboratory space.

Oconee rendering 2
Additional views of the new space being built on UNG's Oconee Campus.

"The addition will provide greatly needed relief in terms of classroom, tutoring and study space," said Dr. Eric Skipper, CEO of the Oconee Campus. "It will also give us some breathing room in terms of faculty and office space."

UNG's Oconee Campus been at capacity enrollment for the past few years and space has been at a premium. Though enrollment has previously been as high as 2,400 students a semester, enrollment was capped at 2,300 a semester this year to help alleviate issues with space and give students more flexibility for scheduling classes, Skipper said.

The USG recommends space utilization – a measure of how frequently a space is used and whether it is at full occupancy – at its 31 universities range from 50 percent to 70 percent; the Oconee Campus has been operating at 90 percent.

Most of the nearly 13,000 square feet in the annex will provide additional instructional space for students, including three classrooms, a language lab, a multi-use science lab, a learning commons for tutoring and supplemental instruction, and two study rooms. Other spaces include a restroom, break room, offices and a copy room. The floor plan includes 10 new offices for full-time faculty and additional cubicle work space for part-time faculty.

The floor plan has grown slightly from the 11,816 square feet initially proposed to provide more common spaces for students, too.

"We've created less hallways and more open space for students to gather and to study, which is so sorely needed on this campus," Skipper said. "We also added more laboratory storage space to accommodate growth chambers for faculty research."

Nathan Toburen, president of the Student Government Association on the Oconee Campus, said he is glad to see the project become a reality as noisy, crowded common areas send him to the library when he needs to study.

"More space is the one thing that we need the most and this annex is good start," said Toburen, who loves the campus because of small class sizes and personal attention from faculty and staff. "With each open house and campus tour, people are starting to figure out that something special is going on at the Oconee Campus and it's attracting more and more students."

The additional space, which is expected to be completed in fall semester 2015, will not mean enrollment will be raised on the Oconee Campus, Skipper said, but he hopes it means increased course offerings.

"The additional instructional space will give us more options in terms of programming and course offerings," he said. "Because of student demand, we need to be able to offer the first two years of engineering and computer science classes and add more language courses."

After talking with Skipper recently about Oconee's course options, Toburen said he is hopeful more classes will be offered, even if he won't directly benefit. The Dacula native is studying journalism and plans to transfer this fall to complete his bachelor's degree.

While state funding has been appropriated for the annex, the final project is pending approval by the state fire marshal's office, building permits, and the University System of Georgia's facilities staff. These routine steps are expected to take anywhere from two to four weeks and construction will begin immediately after.

For safety reasons, non-construction personnel will not be allowed in the area and a fence will be installed around the job site to restrict access.

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