Students, Faculty Bring Pristine Classrooms, High-Tech Laboratories to Life at Francis P. Chiaramonte, MD Center for Science and Technology
The College of Southern Maryland officially dedicated and named its newly renovated and expanded science and technology building as the Francis P. Chiaramonte, M.D. Center for Science and Technology in ceremonies Oct. 7.
The building on CSM’s La Plata Campus was first constructed 40 years ago. CSM embarked on a renovation and expansion of the building in 2006, to meet growing demand for enrollment of science, technology, engineering and math students.
The building, now double in size, houses the college’s departments of mathematics, physics and engineering, biology and physical science, and information technology as well as the college’s Department of Academic Affairs. At more than 60,000 square feet, the new building hosts state-of-the-art chemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology labs as well as a roof-top greenhouse. The renovation and expansion project funded by state and local government cost $11.7 million.
Francis P. Chiaramonte, M.D., FACS, is a community leader, founder of Southern Maryland Hospital Center and contributor of $1 million to the CSM Foundationa gift that is the largest private cash donation in the college’s 50-year history. In recognition of Dr. Chiaramonte’s gift, the renovated science and technology building was named in his honor.
“Healthcare and education are the pillars of our community’s well-being and I have, therefore, dedicated my life to those values. I am pleased to help the College of Southern Maryland fulfill its vital mission of educating our future workforce,” Chiaramonte said during the ceremony.
“In this building we will help to train nurses, phlebotomists, physical therapist assistants, engineers, researchers, mathematicians, teachers and scientists,” said CSM President Bradley Gottfried. Naming this building for Dr. Chiaramonte is a tribute to his generosity and his dedication to the people of Southern Maryland, Gottfried said, adding, “Thank you, Dr. Chiaramonte, for caring so much about this community and its future and entrusting your personal investment to CSM.”
Inspired by Dr. Chiaramonte’s son, Michael Chiaramonte who is CEO of SMHC, the gift is one of many given by the philanthropist. “Dad gives for the right reasons, and typically does so anonymously. This time, we were interested in doing something for his legacy. Dad has given so much to the community of Southern Maryland, I thought it fitting to immortalize his name,” said Michael Chiaramonte.
“This is a great day for the College of Southern Maryland,” said Christopher Falkenhagen, communications director of the Maryland Higher Education Commission and bringing remarks from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley during the ceremony. “Enhancing education in Maryland is one of the highest priorities of the O’Malley-Brown One Maryland Administration,” he added.
The local workforce need for engineers, scientists, computer analysts and technicians is expected to increase by as much as 30 percent in the next decade, according to CSM Board of Trustees Chair James K. Raley, which is why CSM is mounting an aggressive effort to prepare students from within the community, he added.
Healthcare and energy industry workers are also a high priority, said Maryland State Delegate Sally Jameson, adding, “CSM keeps the pulse of the needs of the community around their campuses, and they let elected officials know what those needs are.”
“This community is a team,” said Wayne Cooper, president of the Charles County Commissioners. Charles County has just welcomed an international science and technology applications company to La Plata, and, according to Cooper, there will be announcements of other international companies opening offices in the county hopefully in the near future. This is all happening, Cooper said, “right now in Charles County because of what we’re doing right here.” “This economic development wouldn’t have happened without CSM,” he added.
In addition to Dr. Chiaramonte’s gift, Gottfried acknowledged the many others who were responsible for CSM’s success, “We are as good as we are because of our partners,” he said.
One of those partners is Energetics Technology Center (ETC), a private non-profit organization with a focus on workforce development that sponsors 21 students in CSM’s Energetics Program. ETC Chief Executive Officer Robert Kavetsky said that partnerships among colleges, the military and the private sector are crucial to develop the technical workforce necessary from both a national security and an economic standpoint.
Noting that the nation’s economy has not faired well in recent weeks, Kavetsky said of Dr. Chiaramonte’s gift to the CSM Foundation, “Now that’s a magnificent investment.”
Adding to that sentiment, Donald M. Parsons, chair of the CSM Foundation, said, “This investment will yield high returns.”
Reaping the dividends of the new Francis P. Chiaramonte, M.D. Center for Science and Technology is freshman Matthew Clodfelter of Hughesville who spoke at the dedication ceremony about his physics classroom in the renovated building, “Once the door is closed you hear virtually no outside noise. The desks are large enough for my notebook, textbook and backpack–you could get a small car on those desks,” he said, adding, “This new building gives us students every advantage we need to be successful.”
The expanded building was the result of a two-year transformation from a one-story facility to a two-story U-shaped science and technology learning center with open spaces, modern design features and high-tech, state-of-the-art education platforms and laboratory equipment.
It is a place where students discover euglena, a half-plant, half-animal spirogyra that is hard to classify due to its ability to move and to photosynthesize.
It is also a place where drafting and manufacturing students learn to design and produce concepts using CAD/CAM software that is linked to a prototype model-producing milling machine. Demonstrated prior to the ceremony by Professor and Industrial Studies Area Coordinator Robert Gates, the CNC milling machine takes designs created on a laptop and turns them into three-dimensional models–a Matchbox car-sized model of a Ferrari, a two-inch Arc de Triomphe and a Barbie doll-size head of a pharaoh.
And, it is a place where nursing students gather over bins of disarticulated skeletal models to learn the anatomy of the human hand and get a helping hand from tutors.
Following the dedication ceremony Dr. Chiaramonte and his associate and longtime friend Ronald Bortnick, M.D., chief medical officer at Southern Maryland Hospital Center, toured the new lab facilities. “This is just fabulous” Dr. Chiaramonte repeated again and again as he handled the equipment on display in each room. “We didn’t have this when I was in med school,” he said when viewing the large chemistry lab areas afforded each student. “Four of us would have to share an area this size,” he added.
Joined by his daughter Claire and her two children Daniel and Catherine, Dr. Chiaramonte watched a demonstration by Biology Professor Turner Coggins who showed the technological capabilities available to instructors in the biology lab. Slides of live specimens viewed under a microscope were projected onto a computer monitor and a screen behind Turner, while simultaneously an overhead camera filmed larger specimen models placed on black backing on the instructor’s desk and projected them on the screen. Turner said that during class discussions he could manipulate the slide of microbes or the large models to stimulate class discussion.
“This far surpasses anything I imagined,” Dr. Chiaramonte said.
The life-size replicas of the human skeletal system–as well as the rows of replica plastic skulls behind glass cabinets across the room–drew big eyes from his grandchildren when they entered the biology room.
The Francis P. Chiaramonte, M.D. Center for Science and Technology houses a cyber security lab, a computer aided drafting lab, an engineering technology lab and physics, anatomy, biology and chemistry labs as well as a self-paced learning and faculty/staff technical training labs. There is also an open computer lab with more than 40 workstations for students to use outside of class, manned by a technological student assistant.
The center has doubled the number of labs available to students, providing greater opportunities for nursing, science and technology students to complete required courses. Organic chemistry labs which previously could accommodate only six students at a time can now accommodate 16 students. The renovation added to the number of fume hoods available in each lab where students learn to mix chemicals that may produce gas or vapors. The renovation also produced a walk-in temperature-controlled freezer used to store media used in demonstrations and lab experiments. Classroom laboratories are joined by smaller lab prep rooms containing supplies and materials used in the experiments as well as students’ work-in-progress.
As the College of Southern Maryland celebrates its 50th anniversary, the CSM Foundation marks a major milestone in the history of the college with its “Campaign for the Next 50 Years.” The campaign is raising $5 million to fund an Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (ISTEM), a Regional Center for Trades and Transportation Technologies; and initiatives to address local nursing and healthcare workforce shortages; focus on educational excellence, and endow a student scholarship fund for access and success. CSM, founded in 1958, is the fifth largest community college in Maryland and grown to be the centerpiece of Southern Maryland with campuses in Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties and more than 22,800 annual enrollments. For information about CSM, call 301-934-7765 or 301-870-2309, 240-725-5499 or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7765 or visit www.csmd.edu