Vet center to open on St. Paul campus

A renovated interior and new technology will provide a better place to gather.

Allison Wickler

At first glance, it may look like campus cows will live in a new, state-of-the-art barn. In the meantime, University veterinary students will soon attend class in that structure.

The historic dairy cattle barn, built on the St. Paul campus in 1907, is undergoing renovations to provide more space for veterinary students.

The Ben Pomeroy Student-Alumni Learning Center is nearing completion, said Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Laura Molgaard.

The $5.1 million renovation project includes a large lecture room, a commons area with a food court and several seminar and meeting rooms. New technology and history displays will also be integrated into the interior.

The building hasn’t been used as a dairy barn since 1987, said animal science

professor Jim Linn, and it stored equipment prior to renovation.

While two classrooms exist for first- and second-year students, Molgaard said third-year students learn in a much older, “non-ideal” setting.

Second-year student Maria Huh said students nicknamed the third-year classroom, located in the basement of the veterinary science building, “the dungeon.”

John Clappier, a third-year veterinary student, said he doesn’t know the specifics of the renovation, but said he would appreciate a new space closer to the other classrooms in quality and proximity.

College of Veterinary Medicine Facilities Manager Ed Kosciolek said the renovation has restored the original historic exterior of the barn, which was one of the first buildings built on the St. Paul campus, while completely redoing the interior.

Builders have even installed a silo to house mechanical systems and have replaced old ones torn down several years ago, he said.

Molgaard said new technology for distance learning will bring the University up to speed with other schools that use similar programs.

Aesthetically, the interior contrasts new designs with some of the barn’s original elements. Some exposed beams and bricks still remain, but will be accompanied by technological advances like plasma screens to help students see in the lecture hall.

The new commons space and food court will give students, many of whom have class on campus from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day, a place to eat and interact, Molgaard said.

“Basically, we’re hovering around vending machines,” Huh said, “which sometimes are empty.”

Guests and animal owners who utilize the Veterinary Medical Center will also use the space, Molgaard said, and the building will also be “a window into the vet school” for students who visit the new admissions offices there.

Though the veterinary offices will move to the new facility March 1, the exact opening date is not set, Molgaard said.

She said the school hopes to have students taking classes there for at least part of the spring.

Molgaard said this project shows the University’s strong connection to the changing field of veterinary medicine.

“It’s one of the few remaining landmarks of our agricultural past,” she said of the building, “and our commitment to agriculture moving forward.”