Cornerstone University

Grand Rapids

,

MI

Science and Technology Center Blends Science, Faith, and Learning

The Jack and Mary De Witt Center symbolizes Cornerstone University’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence, health, and overall well-being. By providing students and educators the necessary resources to tackle environmental issues, build ethical medical foundations, create innovative technologies, and advance research in STEM fields, the center solidifies the school's mission and prepares students for success.

Project Details

Client
Cornerstone University
Scale
42,000 Square Feet
Completion
2019
Awards
Sustainability Award, AIA Grand Rapids
2020
Students sitting at tables studying in a large open entryway with large windows surrounding them

A Sustainable Center for STEM Education

Since 1963 when it was first founded as Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College, Cornerstone University has been known as one of the Midwest’s premier centers of faith-based learning. To bolster its science and technology programming, the university challenged Progressive Companies’ designers to create a state-of-the-art science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) environment that would more seamlessly connect science with faith and students with professors. With its innovative and eco-friendly design, the Jack and Mary De Witt Center for Science and Technology is a testament to Cornerstone University's commitment to providing a world-class education and transforming students' lives.

The lobby of the three-story building incorporates stunning natural elements and unique designs. The fish aquarium and live wall are noteworthy features, including an interior filled with natural light, and a hanging solar system installation projects a rotation of Bible verses and campus messages onto the floor three stories below. The building also stands out for its sustainable design. The team used energy modeling software to strategically orient classrooms and open spaces within the building, lessening the impact of heat on lab environments while providing sunlit collaboration spaces. In addition, the building's thoughtful water management system directs runoff to rain and pollinator gardens, and its shoreline habitat was fully restored with native plantings and erosion control.

The project has been recognized with design awards, including features in American School & University Magazine in 2019 and 2020, as well as Learning by Design Magazine in 2022. It also received a Sustainability Award from AIA Grand Rapids in 2020.

Play Video

Elevating the STEM Experience for Students and Faculty

The Jack and Mary De Witt Center is a prime example of Cornerstone University’s commitment to nurturing a faith-based learning community while delivering innovative STEM education. Thoughtfully designed to embody the school's Christian values and mission, the center creates an atmosphere that fosters creativity, teamwork, and adaptable learning.

Before unveiling the new center, the Progressive Companies team conducted surveys with students and faculty to evaluate the previous science building’s amenities, design, services, educational quality, and connection to a Christian worldview. The same groups were surveyed again to gauge the impact of the new center after it opened in 2019 Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with students and faculty praising the inviting and intuitive spaces and contemporary and flexible learning environment.

+59%
Better equipment and amenities when compared to other science facilities
+17%
More students believe they
are getting a better science education
+61%
More students and faculty benefited from “cutting edge” technology
+28%
Increase in the belief that the building confirms the connection between science and faith

Celebrating Faith-based Learning and Scientific Excellence

Situated at the heart of campus, the Jack and Mary De Witt Center for Science and Technology is a modern blend of education and nature, intentionally designed to incorporate ecology and the environment as teaching tools.

To celebrate creation, stone, glass, and wood were selected for their beauty and expression of scientific properties. The stone masonry shows natural variation in the color and size from the quarry wall, while fritted and colored glass showcase light, shadow, and environmental sensitivity. Naturally insect-resistant sinker cypress wood reveals the coloration of the mud and water in which it was submerged.

The center comprises seven state-of-the-art laboratories, cozy communal areas, and a rain garden that complements the outdoor learning facilities. An open-air classroom provides students the opportunity to engage with the natural world. Faculty offices are placed strategically throughout the building to foster closer connections between students and professors.

“I find that prospective students are taken by the beauty and the functionality of this building. I think it’s going to be a great draw for more students into our STEM program.”
Dr. Joseph Stowell, President Emeritus of Cornerstone University