Lt. Governor Karyn Polito visited Framingham State to tour Hemenway Laboratories and the Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Polito was escorted by President F. Javier Cevallos and FSU faculty and staff members. During the tour, faculty members explained the attributes of each building and the different student programs that benefit from the facilities.
Polito began her tour in Hemenway Laboratories, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in the fall of 2015.
On the sixth floor, Polito spoke with three students studying in a lab room. She asked each student about their major and their career goals. Polito was particularly interested in whether the students planned to stay in Massachusetts for work.
“Do you think the opportunities lie here for you in the Commonwealth?” she asked one research student.
On the fifth floor, Polito visited an invertebrate zoology class. She looked on as students completed a dissection assignment. Junior and wildlife biology major Julia Barrone explained the lab assignment to Polito and let her examine the sample through the microscope.
Polito remarked upon the small class sizes and the marketable skills students were gaining from their laboratory work.
As the faculty members and Polito made their way downstairs, Cevallos explained the many environmentally sound design features in the building.
Polito said she found Hemenway Labs “exciting in that they are so fresh and state-of-the-art and exactly what you would see in a work environment.
“I can see from the faculty that they are excited to have such incredible assets to work with. These labs and these classrooms will attract quality students to gain the skills and knowledge they need to plug in to the growing economy here,” she added.
Cevallos led Polito across campus to the McAuliffe Center, located behind O’Connor Hall. The McAuliffe Center hosts students of all ages from across Massachusetts to provide science education and team-building opportunities. The Center is home to a digital planetarium, an exhibition space and an updated Challenger Learning Center, according to its website.
The Challenger Learning Center is an interactive simulation of multiple space missions. It consists of a briefing room, an airlock, a mock spacecraft and a mission control center.
Evan Pagliuca, manager of education programs at the Center, walked Polito through the Challenger Learning experience and the planetarium.
Polito said, “My children are 13 and 11 – middle-schoolers in Shrewsbury – and I remember when they visited [the Center] and their excitement.”
Pagliuca brought Polito to the Challenger briefing room and explained how students prepare for their missions before arriving.
In the spacecraft, Polito experimented with the glove box, which students use to identify different substances during their missions, while Pagliuca answered her questions about the missions and the students who visit the Center.
Pagliuca explained how students generate and analyze data during their missions.
Polito said, “That’s really important – that real time data that is being collected and transitioned to a laboratory for analysis. … This data and this exploration should help inform good policies on the state and federal level in the future.”
Polito then visited the mission control room. Pagliuca described how students needed to work together during each mission to solve an emergency of some kind.
Polito said, “I love the idea that there’s a team needed to solve the problems. Those are skills that are marketable in the workforce.”
After seeing all that the Challenger mission spaces had to offer, Pagliuca brought Polito to see the digital planetarium. The planetarium seats 48 and features full-dome films as well as interactive learning components, according the Center’s website.
“It’s quite an asset for Framingham and beyond to be able to use this,” Polito said of the planetarium.
Polito said Christa McAuliffe, whom the center was named after, would be “very proud” of the work being done there.
During her tour, Polito said she enjoyed the campus. “The buildings are fresh and interesting to look at, and functional at the same time. I can see how a student, when touring this campus and deciding where to start their education, they’d feel very excited to be on this campus.
“I’m obviously familiar with it, being a native of this area, and I’m impressed with what I’m seeing today, particularly because of the connection the programs that are growing here have to our growing economy. … These are high-paying, highly skilled jobs that FSU is preparing these kids for, and you’re attracting students from all over the world to come here for their education.”
Margaret Carroll, dean of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, accompanied Polito on the tour and provided information about various University programs.
Carroll said, “I think that it’s always good to have somebody of the level of the lieutenant governor come to campus.”
Carroll also hopes “helping the administration understand what we do will help them when they think about funding for the campus in general.”
Polito said, “As I often say in my travels, when you find things that are working, do more of it, and here at Framingham State, you’re seeing programs that are working and fueling our economy. … We need more of this.”