Transforming HBCU campuses: A journey of renovation, restoration and expansion

HBCUs continued support and recognition are essential for promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education and society as a whole.

Since 1865, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape for students in the United States.  According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are currently more than 100 HBCUs located in more than a dozen states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

At a time of rapidly rising applications to these college and university campuses, HBCUs must have the resources and infrastructure to accept new students. Improved facilities, evolving programs and the expansion of services can help HBCUs attract top talent and elevate their national and global reputation.

Skanska, a global construction and development firm, is committed to helping transform HBCUs across the nation. The firm has completed thirteen construction projects at nine HBCUs across the United States, including the renovation of the more than 150-year-old Oglethorpe Hall at Clark Atlanta University and the expansion of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Florida A&M University.

Constructing to scale up for the future

Currently, the largest project ever constructed on Virginia State University’s (VSU) campus—the new 175,000 square feet Alfred W. Harris Academic Commons facility—is underway. Located in Petersburg, Virginia, the facility will house academic classrooms, media laboratories, broadcast production labs, multipurpose auditoriums, art and design department ceramics labs and studios, distance learning technologies and faculty offices and support space.

In addition to exceptional educational and artistic learning spaces, the new Academic Commons will also feature updated athletic spaces that include an elevated running track, basketball courts and a natatorium complete with one-meter and three-meter diving boards and a six-lane, 25-yard competition pool.

The name of the Academic Commons honors the legacy of Alfred W. Harris who, during his time in the House of Delegates (1881–1888), introduced the bill that chartered Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute which later became what is known today as Virginia State University.

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Preserving historical integrity and pursuing innovation

Clark Atlanta University, located in the heart of Atlanta, is listed as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places and contains fourteen mid-nineteenth-century buildings and a variety of historic landscapes. Previously, the 150-year-old Oglethorpe Hall had three floors of office and classroom space renovated to support programming, and a three-story BSL-2 laboratory was constructed at the university’s Environmental Science and Technology Research Center. Designed to support Georgia Research Alliance projects, the BSL-2 offered specially equipped laboratories that allow state-of-the-art research in the areas of analytical, catalysis, hydrogeology, composite manufacturing and combustion.

Expanding to invest in the future

Florida A&M University was founded in 1887 and is one of the largest HBCUs in the United States. In 2016, a five-story addition to the existing College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was built. The 81,784 square feet facility houses 40 labs for pharmaceutics, pharmacology, toxicology, medicinal chemistry, tissue culture and a variety of other field-related and clean room facilities. The project also houses both a vivarium and specialty imaging facilities to support research initiatives. Designed to allow for maximum flexibility in the academic program, the building also includes offices, conference areas and ancillary spaces that can be reconfigured as needed.

HBCUs are invaluable institutions that have played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape in the United States. Their continued support and recognition are essential for promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education and society as a whole. Skanska is honored to build at HBCUs and acknowledge their contributions to creating a better society.

Dina Clark
Dina Clark
Dina L. Clark, EdD is the senior vice president of Diversity & Inclusion for multi-billion construction leader Skanska USA Building and drives culture transformation across 3200+ employees.

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