News

Leadership philanthropy funds new Engineering Student Center

April 18, 2022
By: Kirsten Mickelwait
An architectural rendering of a large new building at dusk
A rendering of the new Engineering Student Center, which is slated to open early in 2025. (Image by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Powered by a $30 million challenge match grant from an anonymous alum, UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering has raised more than $74 million in gifts to transform the engineering student center into a vibrant hub of learning and discovery, cross-disciplinary collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The renovation and expansion of our Engineering Student Center reflects a transformation in the culture of engineering to be more welcoming and inclusive,” said Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of engineering. “Berkeley Engineering students will go on to design and build the future; we want the place where they learn, collaborate and innovate together to support and inspire them to make our world more equitable, healthy and sustainable for all.”

In recent surveys of the Berkeley Engineering community, the existing Bechtel Engineering Center has been identified as the “heart” of the engineering neighborhood of the Berkeley campus because of its central location and the programs it houses. Since the center was constructed four decades ago, Berkeley Engineering’s student enrollment has grown by more than 80%. The expanded complex will not only accommodate the college’s burgeoning student population, but also foster collaboration with classmates pursuing other fields of study.

Encasing the existing Bechtel Engineering Center and providing unobstructed views of the Campanile and Memorial Glade, the new complex will house engineering student services, which include academic advising, tutoring, counseling and other student-oriented programs. It will also serve as the future home of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, which supports developing entrepreneurs and innovators with more than 30 courses that are open to all students at the university.

To ensure that all engineering students feel a sense of belonging and can thrive at Berkeley, the new complex will also include welcoming spaces for activities that support diversity and foster inclusion, in addition to K-12 outreach programs.

“The new building directly supports the campuswide Light the Way campaign in its emphasis on student opportunity and experience,” said Charles Giancarlo (M.S.’80 EECS), CEO and chairman of Pure Storage, Light the Way campaign co-chair and Engineering Advisory Board member. “Berkeley is the top public university in the world, and this project will prepare our students to lead by integrating resources for student success, community, engagement and collaboration.”

This major capital project will add 35,500 square feet across two new floors. The centerpiece will be the Forum, a grand, light-filled, three-story space that can flexibly accommodate lectures, poster sessions, industry events and more. New outdoor spaces include a shaded terrace with spectacular views of the campus and San Francisco Bay, providing more opportunities for both formal and informal gatherings.

“I’m excited to see how the space will become a hub for creativity and innovation for Berkeley engineers,” said Allison Nguyen, section president of the Society of Women Engineers. “I truly believe it will improve accessibility, diversify functionality and bolster community.”

As sustainability is a key value of the campus community, the new building will be designed for energy-efficient operations including sunlight shading, stormwater management, water conservation and construction materials extracted through “embodied carbon” principles of lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Groundbreaking is expected to start in 2023, with the new center scheduled to open by early 2025. More than three-quarters of the funding needed has been raised to date. An anonymous donor has agreed to match up to five gifts of $1 million each to support this project, doubling the impact of those gifts though July 31, 2022.

“As a Berkeley Engineering student, I’ve always wanted a building on campus that I could point to as my home away from home,” said Ben Heronimus, president of the Engineering Student Council. “The new Engineering Student Center is that building, and I can’t wait to see the new light that it brings to the engineering community.”