Almost a decade of planning came to a close on Thursday with the opening of Wayne State’s newest addition, the STEM Innovation and Learning Center. 

Like most events during 2020, the grand opening was held virtually —complete with a drone tour of the building’s exterior and videos inside of the building. 

Adjacent to Gullen Mall, the 116,547 square-foot building occupies a central space on campus, said Tonya Matthews, director of the STEM center and associate provost for inclusive work development. It features modern technological tools like a 3-D printer, collaboration spaces complete with desktops, maker spaces for coding and gaming and innovatively built classrooms with multiple screens and moveable furniture.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke in a pre-recorded video during the event, stating how grateful she is for WSU’s dedication to Detroit area students. 

“The STEM Innovation and Learning Center will benefit students and faculty for generations to come by providing a state of the art space where curiosity and collaboration can thrive,” Interim Provost Laurie Lauzon Clabo said. 

While the new STEM center is built with WSU science-oriented students in mind, it will also be a hub for the WSU campus and Detroit school kids.

“Wayne State has long been a leader in research and innovation,” Clabo said. “The STEM Innovation and Learning Center will bring together students from many disciplines while also serving as a gateway for authentic STEM learning for local K-12 students.”

The original structure, built in 1972, served as the undergraduate science library, President M. Roy Wilson said. 

“At its heart, the STEM innovation and Learning Center is about sparking curiosity in young minds, fueling the need to know and giving them the tools and guidance they need for a lifetime of learning, exploring and innovating,” Wilson said.

The project was planned and built with sustainability in mind, from the materials that were used, to the plumbing design and many other aspects, said Ashley Flintoff, WSU director of planning and space management.

“It’s been a bit of a labor of love for us in the facilities trying to get this done,” Flintoff said. “The most interesting thing about this project is really how many people it takes to put something together like this and how many opportunities you can really develop to push the boundaries.”

In addition to the STEM center, part of the master plan includes the development of Gullen Mall. While the first innovated stretch of Gullen Mall was showcased during the virtual event, the team plans to reinvent the entire stretch with more trees, green space, stormwater management and lighting, Flintoff said. 

“It’s really a community amenity,” she said.

For more information, visit stem-innovation.wayne.edu.


Minnah Arshad is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at minnaharshad@wayne.edu.

Photo by Quinn Banks, The South End's multimedia editor. He can be reached at multimediaeditortse@gmail.com.