HOOKSETT — Southern New Hampshire University students gathered Monday to celebrate the opening of the $50 million College of Engineering, Technology and Aeronautics (CETA) building.
The ribbon-cutting marked the end of a three-year process that began with the closure of Daniel Webster College in Nashua, one of the few aeronautics and air traffic control undergraduate programs in the country. At the time, the U.S. Department of Education asked SNHU if it could expand its offerings and take on the newly displaced students.
With that, SNHU began the CETA project and scrambled to educate the Daniel Webster students at existing facilities in Nashua, as well as renovating an old warehouse into a building known as the Annex.
SNHU President Paul LeBlanc said Monday the school also accelerated plans to expand its STEM program.
“There was no way we could eventually do engineering programs without an appropriate facility,” LeBlanc said. “STEM programs are generally very capital-intensive buildings. So, it was inevitable that we would have built something, but we definitely wouldn’t have gotten here this fast.”
While the CETA Annex will continue to house classes in air traffic control and some of the construction management programs, other technology and engineering classes will migrate to the new facility. It includes specialized drone-pads, a robotics lab and a 3D printing lab.
Kirk Kolenbrander, executive vice president of CETA, said the new building’s key feature is specialized classrooms called “design hubs,” which have easily movable tables and no designated front or back.
“This building is built with projects in mind; it begins with the notion of project-based learning and putting together students of different disciplines to develop solutions,” said Kolenbrander, who joined CETA 10 months ago after decades at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Junior Bethany Spangler, a construction management major from Mattapoisett, Mass., said she is excited to start attending classes in the facility, and will split time between the Annex and the new building this semester.
Spangler agrees with LeBlanc’s assessment that the new facility will sway students to enroll at SNHU if they are torn between multiple colleges.
“This is definitely more spacious and has more windows than the Annex. Also, it’s centralized on campus,” said Spangler. “I think it’s a very beautiful building; it definitely catches your eye. If you walk in and see what it has to offer your education, it’s definitely a game-changer.”