Funding proposals call for St. Paul barn renovation

Pending funding approval, the old dairy barn will get new classrooms, a computer lab and a commons area.

Emily Ayshford

The old dairy barn on the St. Paul campus stands padlocked and houses tarp-covered John Deere machinery instead of dairy cattle.

Soon, if funding bills go through the Legislature, the Jacobean edifice will house state-of-the-art classrooms, a computer lab and a commons area for students.

The request for the $5.1 million funding needed for the renovation could come from three places; it is part of the University’s bonding proposal and there are currently bills in Senate and House committees.

Jeffrey Klausner, College of Veterinary Medicine dean, said the renovated building would include a classroom for as many as 200 students and four seminar rooms that could be refigured into different sizes.

“We have very few spaces in the college for small groups,” Klausner said.

He said the three main classrooms the college currently uses are insufficient.

Alice Larson, veterinary pathobiology professor, said the classroom in the basement of the Veterinary Science Building has problems with space, acoustics and audiovisual systems.

“It’s a little bit like going down into a dungeon,” she said.

Laura Molgaard, associate dean for academic and student affairs, said modern classrooms and facilities are needed to teach future veterinarians.

“We’re trying to prepare veterinarians to be professionals that will take us through the next century,” she said.

The renovated building would also include a cafeteria and a commons area – something veterinary students do not have.

The building would be renamed the Ben Pomroy Student-Alumni Learning Center, in honor of former veterinary dean Ben Pomroy.

Klausner said Pomroy, who died earlier this year, was “a champion of animal agriculture and veterinary medicine in Minnesota.”

“He was always interested in the next generation,” Klausner said. “This would be a very fitting memorial to his life.”

Klausner said they considered a new building for the center, and then realized they needed to preserve the 97-year-old structure of the dairy barn.

“This thing just looms over the center of the campus,” he said.

Klausner said the building also represents Minnesota’s dairy industry.

“I think we should try to preserve the past when we can,” he said, adding that it’s important for the next generation to learn in a modern environment.

Molgaard said she is “very hopeful” the funding will be approved. Klausner said if the funding is approved, the renovation will be completed within the next few years.