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 UMD News Releases

Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

July 24, 2009
Susan Beasy Latto, Director, UMD Public Relations 218 726-8830
James P. Riehl, Dean Swenson College of Science & Engineering 218 726-6397

UMD Chancellor Martin and Benefactor James Swenson Hoisted 40 Feet
Atop New Civil Engineering Building

"Topping Off" Ceremony Celebrates Milestone
in Construction of the $15 Million Building

State-of-the-Art Facility Will Provide "Engineering on Display"

Hoisted 40 feet in the air on a construction crane, UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin along with benefactor James Swenson and Stahl Construction Company carpenter Kevin Ryan placed an American flag atop the tallest part of the new Civil Engineering building currently under construction on the campus.

The ritual, called a "Topping off" ceremony, is a long-standing tradition in the building trades---performed in celebration of the completion of the tallest part of a building under construction. The three also signed the building's uniquely engineered Cyprus wood water scuppers.

UMD Chancellor Martin and James Swenson.
UMD Chancellor Martin and James Swenson

Just one year ago (July 11, 2008) UMD held groundbreaking ceremonies for the $15 million building. The state-of-the-art teaching/training center is designed to house the new Bachelor of Science degree program in Civil Engineering which admitted its first freshman students last fall. The structure is the 6th new building to be constructed on the UMD campus since 2000.

The 34,000 gross square foot, two-story building adjoins Voss Kovach Hall (home of the Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering programs) and will house sophisticated, specialized teaching and research laboratories as well as classrooms and administrative offices.

Of the six total laboratories, two will be very large--reaching two-stories high with full glass walls providing "Engineering on Display" from hallways as well as the outside. These "large labs" will showcase to viewers what civil engineers actually do and will provide a whole new look to the North East end of the campus.

One of the "large labs" will feature a large flume (water flow channel) with heavy volumes of water supplied by recycled run-off from the building's roof scuppers. The second "large lab" will showcase structural engineering with two 15-ton hydraulic cranes lifting large sections of concrete and other structural elements for evaluation and testing. All six laboratories will provide essential hands-on student learning experiences.

Set for completion in time for September 2010 fall classes, the building is designed to be a LEED certified "green building". LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system established by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification is a rigorous process that evaluates the environmental sustainability of building design, construction and operation.

The Duluth architectural firm SJA (formerly Stanius Johnson) is the lead architect for the project. Carol Ross Barney of Ross Barney Associates of Chicago is the design architect. The two firms also collaborated on the $33 million UMD James I. Swenson Science Building opened in September 2005.

Funding for the building was provided by the Minnesota Legislature which approved a $10 million capital bonding request last year. UMD benefactor and 1959 graduate, James I. Swenson (Swenson Family Foundation) donated $3 million. An additional $2 million was provided by university funds.


According to Swenson College of Science and Engineering Dean James P. Riehl, the development of the Civil Engineering Program at UMD is in direct response to engineering personnel needs expressed by the private and public sectors in our region, and the career aspirations of prospective students and their parents. Areas of focus were determined after consultation with engineering and manufacturing firms in Duluth and Greater Northeastern Minnesota.

The new program will emphasize the fields of:

  • Water resource engineering
  • Transportation engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering (including mining)

"We intend to graduate civil engineers who have the skills and experience that employers are seeking, and who are prepared to meet the future needs of regional and statewide government agencies and industrial firms," said Dean Riehl. "Our students will be poised to contribute to the development of sustainable solutions to the pressing problems that impact our communities."

Total Engineering enrollment at UMD (in all five major fields) is now more than 850, with over 1,000 engineering students expected by the year 2012.

Engineering programs were begun at UMD in 1984, and currently include four (soon to be five) degrees:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

With the initial Civil Engineering freshman class having started in the fall 2008, the first class will graduate in May 2012. At full admission, the program will have approximately 200 students.

Professor Andrea Schokker is Civil Engineering department head. Professor Schokker came from Penn State and has a national reputation in the field of Civil Engineering with expertise in concrete and structures.

Professor Carlos Carranza-Torres is an international industry consultant with expertise in mining and geotechnical engineering.

Professor Eil Kwon, Director of the Northland Advanced Transportation Systems Research Laboratory (NATSRL) at UMD, will teach transportation related courses in the program.

UMD recently hired two new Civil Engineering faculty who will begin teaching classes this September. More faculty will be hired next year in order to be able to teach the complete four year program.

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