by Courtney Corbetta
Throughout the short summer months, the students at Niagara University have been preparing for their first day of classes. While new and returning students were buying books and finalizing their class schedules, the university's faculty and staff have been busy at work. This fall, Niagara will welcome a new president and a new science building to campus.
The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., recently took over as NU's 26th president, replacing longtime leader the Rev. Joseph Levesque, C.M. Before coming to Niagara, Maher was the executive vice president for mission and student services at St. John's University in New York City. He is a 1976 Niagara graduate.
"Niagara is a magical place. It's a magical place because of the mission and the commitment of people to the mission of the university," Maher said.
As a young president, he has many plans for the future and is very excited to begin working with the students, faculty and staff at the school. Maher said he believes Niagara has many wonderful qualities and that the public should continue to be informed of what it has to offer.
"Nationally and globally, we have a great experience here for learning, for living, for building a community, and for building a future," he said.
Maher's plans for the upcoming year involve holding listening sessions throughout the campus.
"What can I learn about Niagara from the people who have been here many more years than I have been?" he said.
Maher's inauguration will be held in the spring semester, on April 4.
"It can be regarded as somewhat unusual, but it's been more of a practice for some incoming presidents to put off their inauguration until they really have a chance to meet people - hear the story of the institution," he said.
Along with becoming more familiar with Niagara, Maher would like to keep promoting and improving the school.
"I think that we can always get better at telling our story, because we have such a great story to tell," he said. "I think this is a great place for international students to come, because it's a welcoming community."
In addition to the arrival of a new president, a new science building will debut next week on campus. The $28 million B. Thomas Golisano Center for the Integrated Sciences will be home to the chemistry, biology and physics departments at Niagara.
Rochester businessman Golisano donated $10 million to the building, which will be open for students to experiment and explore within the fields of science.
Dr. Judy Willard, facility planner at Niagara, has been working diligently on the project since it was first proposed more than a decade-and-a-half ago.
"It was about 17 years ago that the science departments said that we really need help; we really need better facilities for our students in order to show off the wonderful work that they're doing with experiments in the research," Willard said.
Dr. Robert S. Greene, professor and chair of the biology department at Niagara, is very pleased with the new science center.
"The way we do science is very different at the undergraduate level. I think the university has recognized that in one way to give your undergraduates in science the best opportunity is to give them the best tools," he said.
Maher said, "I think it will be a crown jewel for the university in terms of providing our faculty and our students who are so talented with a great laboratory of life for their work and to support them in the learning and the teaching and the research process."
The brand-new building allows students to interact with one another inside and outside of the classroom. Throughout the center, there are interactive touch screens and TV screens, which will inform the students and passersby about the donors, the building, and occurrences in the classrooms. Booths and benches will also be placed in the building, giving students the opportunity to wind down from classes and even do a bit of studying.
"One of the themes of the whole building is science on display," Willard said. "You will see windows in every lab, so you can look in and see what's going on."
Since the B. Thomas Golisano Center for the Integrated Sciences is located next to the Dwyer Arena parking lot, Willard expects many people to travel throughout the building as they make their way onto the main portion of campus.
"We want to make this trip through the building educational and entice them a little with what's happening with science" Willard said.
Artwork is displayed throughout the science building. The Castellani Art Museum worked with artist Michael Kessler to bring in a collection that features a theme of science and art together. Forty paintings will be placed throughout the halls to keep the building colorful and alive.
"The colors are very organic, but very science in the abstract sense. So we are very lucky to have them," Willard said.