The University of North Dakota last Thursday dedicated its new Collaborative Energy Center (CEC) before an estimated at 200 attendees made up of students, faculty, donors, state officials and oil and gas energy industry representatives.
The complex—which serves as the main entrance to the UND College of Engineering and Mines—connects the engineering school to the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering. A skyway also connects the facility to the recently renovated Wilson M. Laird Core and Sample Library across the street.
Bob Solberg, the CEC’s first donor who was hired by Texaco after graduating from UND as a civil engineer, said the dedication was important because it opens a modern education facility. “It makes strategic sense because it models the business organization style of today’s best and biggest oil companies,” he noted.
Mark Haggerott, North Dakota University System chancellor, said collaboration is crucial to moving the state’s university system forward. He told students, “What you are doing as engineers is literally remaking the planet with energy, with communications, with clean water and places to live.”
The 37,000-square-foot facility contains state-of-art labs for teaching and research, as well as customized spaces for students, faculty and industry. Hess Corp, which contributed to the project, sponsored an innovation lab, a 3D visualization and reservoir simulation lab and a drilling simulation lab.
Steve McNally, general manager for Hess in North Dakota, stressed the importance of collaboration to the company and its employees.
“Hess has been here for a long time—since 1951,” he said. “This state’s important to us, and the North Dakota way is the Hess way. We believe that through collaboration and cooperation, we will be able to make North Dakota an even better place.”
The CEC contains office space housing the UND Institute for Energy Studies, which will work with the university’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), the School of Law, the College of Business & Public Administration, Arts & Sciences and other academic disciplines.
CEC donor Steve Burian, a UND graduate and CEO of AE2S Inc.—a consulting engineering firm based in Grand Forks—said the company relies heavily on the university’s graduates.
“UND graduates are smart, they’re hard working, they’re well educated, they want to live here and they’re prepared to be successful,” he said. “The School of Engineering and Mines has a bright, bright future, and you’re going to see this facility play a critical role in that.”
The Big Ideas Gym provides a creative space for students to design and develop engineering concepts. The Collaborative Energy Complex also contains a 40-foot vertical high-bay lab equipped with a two-ton bridge crane.
The project was funded by donors and industry leaders whose contributions were matched by the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund, which provided $1 for every $2 donated.
While reciting a list of firsts contained in the CEC, Hesham El-Rewini, dean of the engineering school, said, “I am grateful to everyone who believed in our vision, whose trust brought us here today.”