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This is ag: Dal AC embraces changes for school year despite recent fire

The new Student Learning Commons on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, in Bible Hill, will host its grand opening on Sept. 27.
The new Student Learning Commons on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, in Bible Hill, will host its grand opening on Sept. 27. - Contributed

BY STEPHANIE ROGERS

Although campus may look a bit different this fall, the Dal AC Faculty of Agriculture is getting back to another school year

despite a recent fire that rendered the majority of one of its main academic buildings, Cox Institute, unusable. 

“Cox Institute is one of our main campus academic buildings. Losing use of the facility meant we’ve had to be creative in how we have accommodated our students,” said dean and campus principal Dr. David Gray, referring to the June 20 fire.

“But we’ve been determined to ensure the Faculty of Agriculture could continue to provide the exceptional educational experience students have come to rely on.” 

Nearly 1,000 students have descended on campus for the new academic year - with close to 300 students living in residence and the remainder as citizens of the local community.  While the majority of classes and labs this fall have remained on campus, some students and faculty are travelling to an off-campus location.

The former Sears location in Truro mall was transformed for additional teaching, research, graduate student space and office space and is being serviced by a free shuttle bus to and from campus for the 2018-19 academic year.

Students are also fortunate to have access to a new space on campus that’s focused on enhancing academic success. Recently vacated space above the MacRae Library is now home to the new state-of-the-art Student Learning Commons opened to students in August.  Program space in the Student Learning Commons, the Alumni Theatre and Athletic Centre classroom will be utilized as teaching spaces this fall.   

Much of the damage sustained to Cox Institute was located in part of the building dubbed “Old Cox” - from Enrolment Services east to the Banting Building. While the building itself was deemed structurally sound, Old Cox will need to be completely rebuilt on the inside. New Cox, which was also affected, has been extensively cleaned with teaching and learning spaces restored in time for the new academic term.

Old Cox reconstruction means a substantive upgrade to the building. Opened in 1968 and named in honour of Dr. Kenneth Cox, NSAC principal from 1946 to 1964, the building is home to the A.E. Roland Herbarium, the A.D. Pickett Entomological Museum as well as many academic departments and service divisions. Since 1968 nearly every diploma and degree student has received at least a few lectures in Cox Institute.

The estimated cost to rebuild Old Cox is expected to be between $12 and $25 million – depending on the extent of the damage. It is expected the reconstruction will be completed in 2019.

The cause of the late-night fire is still under investigation.

“The entire campus—staff, faculty, students and alumni—as well as the surrounding community in Truro and Bible Hill have stepped up with support,” said Dean Gray.  “Without a doubt, it is our people that will see us through the rebuilding phase and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”

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