Science Is on Display on McCarthy Hall’s Modernized Second Floor

Was the modernization of McCarthy Hall’s second floor a success? The proof is in the students’ response, says Marie Johnson, dean of the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics.

“They were up there instantly using the space, which I loved to see,” Johnson says. “There’s lots of natural light, windows into science classes, murals showing California’s ecosystems and geologic features. The place screams, ‘science is happening here!’ and students are using all the huddle rooms, collaborating and talking about science. Their feet say they love it.”

Merri Lynn Casem, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Science, echoed Johnson’s remarks.

“It’s been a long journey, about two and a half years, and the vision Marie [Johnson] had was one in which students had space to engage with peers and faculty, where lots of formal and informal learning would be taking place. What struck me was – on that very first day with students back on campus – they were instantly occupying those spaces,” Casem says. “Seeing them in there studying and working with their friends was a gut punch in a good way. This is exactly why we struggled so hard to make this happen.”

“The ability to interact with each other on an informal basis allows students to work together when they might not have otherwise,” adds Adam Woods, professor and chair of the Department of Geological Sciences.

On a daily basis, students can be seen working out equations or creating biological or geological illustrations on writable glass walls, lingering in front of an impressive display of fossils and minerals, and engaging in research in updated labs or animated discussions in huddle rooms.

“Students are able to see the types of research and teaching we do, and my hope is that it will inspire some students to think, ‘That’s really cool! I want to major in that!’,” Woods says.

A Space to Succeed in Science

Within McCarthy Hall’s second floor, several named spaces recognize donors whose investments supported the students, faculty, and programs the second floor is designed to engage and sustain.

Greg Wright (MS ’07), vice president of Research & Development at Edwards Lifesciences, and Michael Blyleven (BA ’05), campus lead web developer at Cal State Fullerton, donated $35,000 to support student scholarships and the college as a whole. The Greg Wright & Michael Blyleven Huddle Room and Study Pod as well as another study pod they named in honor of Gene Jones, professor emeritus of biological science, symbolize that support. They wanted to honor Jones, who passed away in 2020, for “his compassion, drive, and willingness to help students in any way he could.”

“There are times in your life when you can give back to the college you were so proud to be part of, and for us the time was now,” Wright says. “We are both proud of what CSUF does for students and how it prepares them for their careers. Students need areas in which they can engage with other students; I believe this is critical to innovation and idea generation. We are proud to contribute to creating this type of environment for the students of NSM.”

Wright says McCarthy Hall has needed renovation for some time, and it seems like the timing was perfect to create an environment where students can be creative, come together, and solve problems. He says the architecture and layout of the renovation is “spot-on for today’s generation of students to thrive.”

“It took a village to make this happen, and I’m grateful to so many people in a lot of different roles across campus,” Johnson says. “We just want people to know that science is hands-on and it’s for everyone. If you want to do it, we’ll support you and provide the resources and the space to succeed.”

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