New housing at Panhandle Center nearly ready for occupants


 SCOTTSBLUFF – An open house is scheduled for Friday, June 8, to allow the public to tour new housing units for students, visiting scholars and others at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center.

The event will run from 4:15 until 6 p.m. The housing units are beside the main parking lot at the Panhandle Center, 4502 Avenue I, Scottsbluff.

Construction of the new housing is finished and students will be moving in around June 11. Nearly all of the 12 available rooms will be occupied at first, but the occupancy rate will vary from season to season as students arrive and leave.

At the June 8 open house, visitors will be able to tour the units, view information about the project, and enjoy refreshments. For those involved in the project, a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place prior to the open house.

The student housing consists of two pre-built, 2,496-square-foot, single-story structures. Each unit consists of six bedrooms, six bathrooms, along with a kitchen-commons area and on-site laundry area. They will accommodate 12 students altogether.

Baker & Associates + Studio 120 of Scottsbluff served as the designing architects and engineers on the project. General Contractor is Rusch’s General Contracting of Scottsbluff, and the manufacturer of the modular housing was Family Built Homes of Gering. Warren Lauritzen is project manager for UNL.

Subcontractors include: Main Street Appliance of Gering, Southwest Contract of Temple, Texas; American Hotel Register Company of Vernon Hills, Ill.; Mark Chrisman Trucking Inc. of Gering; TRT Construction of Gering; Gering Valley Plumbing & Heating of Gering; AE Electrical Services of Scottsbluff; Nebraska Fire & Safety of Gering; and Bamford, Inc. of Kearney.

The new housing units will support the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center’s role to serve western Nebraska in a key way, according to Dr. Jack Whittier, Director of Research and Extension for the Panhandle. They will provide temporary housing, both long-term and short-term, for graduate students and visiting scientists.

UNL Graduate students often come to the Panhandle to work under the supervision of the specialists based at the Panhandle Center, who serve as their advisers in their role as faculty of UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR).

Graduate students often will be among the first identified as potential recruits to replace Panhandle faculty who retire or leave. As many local employers are aware, recruiting highly trained and specialized staff to rural areas is a challenge. Prospects are more likely to relocate to the Panhandle if they are already familiar with what this area has to offer.

Graduate students also provide important support for existing faculty in developing their careers and professional reputations.

“More broadly, it’s important to remove barriers for students to come and see what we are all about here and gain experience alongside their advisor or another scientist. To do so, students need to experience a residency at the Panhandle Center that extends past a summer term.”

“Everyone benefits when our current specialists can train the next generation of specialists. While here, they need a temporary, affordable, and convenient place to live.”

In addition to graduate students, the Panhandle Center intends to seek more opportunities to host international students and visiting scholars. Part of the Center’s Strategic Plan is to increase the Center’s reputation both domestically and internationally for its work. The need for temporary housing for graduate students, visiting scientists and others was a key finding of the Panhandle Center’s Five-Year Review, completed in 2016.

No state-appropriated (tax) funds were used for the building of the housing units. The funds required for engineering, site preparation, and construction have been secured by applying revenue from existing budget accounts. A foundation campaign is underway to raise funds for additional costs related to the housing units.


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