Community gathers for groundbreaking on new psychology building

Fresh off of a five-month construction hiatus, the UI celebrated the groundbreaking of a new Psychological and Brain Sciences Building.


Charles Peckman

From left: UI President Bruce Harreld and Psychological and Brain Sciences Chair Mark Blumberg speak outside the construction on the new Psychology and Brain Sciences Building on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. The facility is expected to open in January 2020.

Charles Peckman, News Reporter

Community members gathered on Monday afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking for the new Psychological and Brain Sciences Building, a 66,470-square-foot undertaking that will transform the facility’s current home.

University of Iowa administrators, members of the state Board of Regents, legislators, and students gathered Monday to hear stories about Seashore’s past and the new facility’s “very welcome” future. The new facility, anticipated to be completed by January 2020, will include laboratories for human research, student work areas, and collaboration spaces.

The regents gave the green light to the project’s design and $33.5 million budget in April 2016. Parts of Seashore Hall, which currently houses the Psychological & Brain Sciences Department, were razed in phases beginning in December 2017.

According to regents’ documents, the project will be funded by Treasurer’s Temporary Investment Income, Building Renewal, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences gifts and earnings, and indirect cost recoveries from sponsored research.

The project comes after a five-month campus construction moratorium. The new building was not affected by the moratorium, which was announced in April and lifted Sept. 12, because the project was already bid and construction plans were in place.

UI psychology Professor Jodie Plumert said that although the project has been a long time in the making, the results will greatly benefit the university community.

“As the department has grown and our needs have changed, there really became this strong [importance] for getting a new building for the department,” she said. “As we’re moving toward cutting-edge brain sciences, that’s been very important for the department.”

Plumert said the department’s current home, Seashore, lacks common areas and spaces for students to meet and feel at home.

“This new building is going to provide some real nice space for students, places where they can study and gather, where they can work on projects together,” Plumert said. “So I think that’s going to be something that will be really important for our psychology majors.”

Outside of the sheer need for a new facility, she said, it is also important to keep in mind the changing nature of psychology and the role a new facility will play in student recruitment.

“Often, when prospective students come to the University of Iowa, we kind of avoid taking them over to Seashore Hall, because it’s not really a selling point,” she said. “But with the new building, I think it’s going to be amazing for recruiting new students.” 

RELATED: Video: Farewell, Seashore Hall 

UI senior Samantha Stoll, a psychology major, said that although she will graduate before the building’s completion, she is excited for future Hawkeyes.

“Speaking from a student perspective, I think having this new building is going to be a huge resource for students on campus just because things are a little bit scattered right now — this will be one central location,” she said.

Charles Peckman
A construction worker observes the future site of the Psychological & Brain Sciences Building on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. The new building will include research labs and spaces for collaborative work.

Similar to Plumert, Stoll said Seashore lacks many of the resources other students have in their fields of study.

“It’s similar to how the Main Library has those common spaces that are great for group projects, and Seashore doesn’t necessarily have that now … Because all of the common areas will be in a psych building, there will be psych resources there as well,” she said.

UI President Bruce Harreld chuckled as he explained his dismay during a tour of Seashore early in his tenure, and he said the new building will be a space for students of every level to hone their skills in the areas of psychological and brain sciences.

“This is a significant building, this is a historic facility for our university,” Harreld said. “What we’re doing here today is not only respecting and putting an exclamation point behind that legacy they’ve built, but also, it’s the center for so much of the future for us.”