RIVER FALLS — University of Wisconsin-River Falls alums Jeff and Kristi Cernohous recently pledged a $1 million gift for the university’s proposed Science and Technology Innovation Center, or SciTech.

The money, classified as a “challenge gift,” is intended to inspire others to support the project.

The estimated $116 million SciTech building would house research and lab space for chemistry, physics and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) departments, as well as provide opportunities for business collaboration such as prototyping and fabrication.

The 72,000-square-foot Science and Technology Innovation Center, or SciTech, is proposed for the current footprint of Hagestad Hall. Image courtesy of UW-River Falls
The 72,000-square-foot Science and Technology Innovation Center, or SciTech, is proposed for the current footprint of Hagestad Hall. Image courtesy of UW-River Falls

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“Modernizing aging learning environments is an absolute must but transforming the student experience is equally important,” Jeff Cernohous, CEO and chairman of locally-based Interfacial, said in a news release. “We would like to see this gift used to create an ecosystem where UWRF students, faculty and industry are engaged in meaningful scientific collaboration year-round.”

The Cernohouses funded a feasibility study in 2014 that found “significant gaps” in the university’s science and technology offerings, according to the news release.

Their latest gift is anticipated to start an endowment to fund instrumentation, endowed faculty, student scholarships and internships.

SciTech would support economic growth in the region and reinforce the university’s role in contributing to Wisconsin’s “talent pipeline,” Interim UWRF Chancellor Connie Foster told the Star-Observer.

“SciTech will be situated at the heart of one of Wisconsin’s fastest growing regions, with recent economic indicators demonstrating major growth potential for the region’s thriving business and entrepreneurial community,” she said.

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Other groups and organizations that have voiced support for the project include the city of River Falls, Pierce County Board, Momentum West and area chambers of commerce and economic development corporations.

Construction of SciTech, planned for the west end of campus where Hagestad Hall now stands off Cascade Avenue, is included in the 2021-23 capital budget request put forward by UW System Pres. Tommy Thompson.

Gov. Tony Evers will deliver his biennial and capital budget proposals in the coming weeks.