Farr Hall Renovation: Impacts on Academics

Changes facing student life and faculty.

In December 2021, Ripon College’s administration announced the primary phase of a $35 million strategic infrastructure plan, which included plans for renovation to Farr Hall, the Ripon College science center. Following the commencement of Ripon College’s renovation to Farr Hall, an abundance of students and faculty have expressed both concerns and excitement in regard to the completion of the project.

Ripon College Vice President Dr. John Sisko explained that he is pleased with the progression of reconstruction up to this point.

“We’ve ended up on budget at $24.5 million. We played around with moving larger [heating and air conditioning] rooftop units, and there are areas where we were going to move some walls and chose not to to save a little money here or there,” he said, pointing to one such change, adding that another cost savings comes with small design changes. 

Windows are boarded on Farr hall as contruction continues. Photo Courtesy of Miki Canak.

Windows are boarded on Farr Hall as construction continues. Photo Courtesy of Miki Canak.

“The largest staircase in the atrium was going to be glass, which is now going to be wire instead of glass.” 

Sisko called this process “value engineering,” which is the fundamental reason why there has not been a large deviation in terms of the planned budget for Renovations to Farr Hall. In terms of space and equipment functionality for science courses, all of the planned processes have been kept.

One such student whose research has been impacted by the construction, junior Jacob Nelson, stated that he had difficulty working in his surroundings. 

“I was working with brain tissue, and that’s very sensitive to temperature. With the construction, I was cutting out small pieces as the building rattled… The temperature also skyrocketed in the building.. it was extremely warm to the point where I had to move my cryostat to a different room, ” he said.

Difficulties emerged for Nelson as he conducted these experiments, although he believes that these inconveniences will be worth the completion of the renovation.

While students are delighted to observe progress during this 68,500-square-foot renovation, they mentioned several inconveniences in regard to their ability to concentrate during exams and lectures, their ability to experiment, as well as the extra time needed to arrive at their classes on time.

Physics professor, Dr. Brett Barwick, said “..we have to do a lot of packing and moving materials around to get ready for spaces that are going to be renovated.” and “..we..have to shut down some of our research for a certain amount of time, so that we can move things around to be OK for the renovation.”

Currently, decisions are being made regarding options for summer research, and digital projects are likely a solution to these closed spaces.

The crane outside of Farr hall. Photo Courtesy of Miki Canak.

The crane outside of Farr Hall. Photo Courtesy of Miki Canak.

While speaking about the outcome of the construction, Barwick also praised the renovations, stating “It is going to give us a modern, newly renovated beautiful old building, and a new addition that is going to have a lot of benefit to all the courses that are taught in here.”

Ripon College announced that this renovation portrays a commitment to its strength and reputation in the sciences, which will in turn better meet the learning needs of both current and impending students participating in STEM programs.

Sisko said, “12% of our applicants are applying for engineering for the college, so that is suggestive that maybe we will expand some enrollment in sciences.”

A consensus between students and faculty is that the completion of the Farr Hall Renovation Project will outweigh the inconveniences presented by the past few months. They are eager to witness the completion of the Farr Hall renovation, which is scheduled to open during the fall of 2024.