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McCarthy Hall Modernization Project to Put ‘Science on Display’

$40 Million Project to Transform the Learning of Science Set for August 2021 Completion
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Over six decades ago, the late Miles D. McCarthy, a Cal State Fullerton founding faculty member, had a vision for the university’s first building, erected to provide space for classrooms, administrative offices and a library.

McCarthy, also founding chair of the Department of Biological Science, helped design the building and saw his plans come to fruition when the Letters and Science Building was completed in 1963. 

Construction crews work on McCarthy Hall renovations
Construction is underway to modernize the second floor of McCarthy Hall.

Today, the six-story building, renamed McCarthy Hall in 1984 in honor of the biology professor’s service to the university, is undergoing a state-funded $40 million transformation to put “science on display” and bring the 58-year-old building into the 21st century.

Construction is currently underway to modernize the second floor of McCarthy Hall, home to the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Completion is targeted for August — in time for the 2021 fall semester. Of the cost, $32 million is funded through the California State University, with CSUF funding the remainder. 

The project is part of the university’s “It Takes a Titan” comprehensive campaign to transform the learning and teaching of science and mathematics. This modernization project provides the opportunity for donor investment through naming opportunities that will support student scholarships and fellowships, faculty and student research, and academic programs in the college. 

The renovated second floor will elevate spaces that promote a teacher-scholar model and the pursuit of scientific knowledge and discovery, said Marie Johnson, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“McCarthy’s vision created an ideal building for its time, and we hope to honor his legacy with the modernization work we are undertaking,” Johnson added. “Our hope is to give the campus a beating heart of science. We want to make it a space that is open, friendly and accessible — and that celebrates the excellent work of our faculty and students.” 

McCarthy Hall atrium renovation
This rendering depicts the updated, second-story outdoor terrace. Rendering by AC Martin architectural firm.

The second-floor makeover includes new classrooms and teaching labs — some with glass walls to view science-in-action — faculty research labs; “huddle rooms,” equipped with technology; a large lecture room; computer labs; administrative suites for the departments of Biological Science and Geological Sciences; “neighborhoods” of faculty offices; and informal open areas for students to study, connect and hang out, including a remodeled outdoor terrace. 

Fire, health and safety upgrades will be made to the entire building, including the replacement of the two elevators. As part of the physical campus master plan, the long-term vision is to renovate the remaining floors in phases, with the total cost of the modernization project upward of an additional $96 million.

Faculty and students alike are looking forward to the revitalization of the aged building. Merri Lynn Casem, chair and professor of biological science, shared that the improvements envisioned will create a space that promotes creativity and inquiry in biological science. 

“The modernized spaces will aid our faculty in providing high quality educational experiences in our classrooms and laboratories,” Casem said.

Adam Woods, chair and professor of geological sciences, also noted that students will benefit by having the research spaces and tools to help them become science and environmental leaders in Orange County and beyond.

“Geology is a very visual and active science, so the new classrooms and labs will better allow us to address the needs of our students,” Woods said. “The ability to show off our science and allow students and others to watch what kind of work we do, is what’s most exciting.”

Debra Cano Ramos