The UW’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering has started to move across campus into the department’s new building — a transition that will take one of the nation’s top 10 computer science programs to a state-of-the-art facility where it can expand on its tradition of leadership.
The move signals substantial completion of the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering and the successful completion of the fund-raising campaign that made the $72 million structure possible. The building will open for classes in September, and dedication events are planned for October. For department leaders, the new facility means having the physical environment to match the quality of CSE faculty, students and staff.
“Despite making do with substandard facilities for a long time, we’ve maintained our status among the country’s best programs,” said David Notkin, chair of the department. “This building will allow us to really reach our full potential.”
The new 85,000-square-foot facility gives CSE 2 ½ times as much total space and 3 times as much laboratory space. That will put the department on par with other top-10 programs around the country, according to Ed Lazowska, holder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering and former department chair.
“This wonderful new building is the tool we need to remain competitive,” Lazowska said. “We’ve been operating with less than half the space of comparable programs at a time when the field is exploding in importance and becoming much more laboratory intensive and student demand and intellectual opportunity are greater than ever.”
One of the most significant factors in making the building a reality was the generous level of financial support from friends and alumni. Of the $72 million total, $42 million came from private donors, including lead gifts from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft Corp. and Paul G. Allen, for whom the building is named. More than 200 additional donors contributed to the CSE capital campaign, which was led by Tom Alberg (managing director of Madrona Venture Group), Jeremy Jaech (CSE alumnus and co-founder of Aldus and Visio), and Lazowska.
“Our friends and alumni recognize the importance of having a top computer science program in the region,” Notkin said. “The support we’ve received is incredibly gratifying — all the more so because it came in difficult economic times. We are proud to celebrate a public/private funding partnership that is unprecedented in UW history.”
CSE is currently housed in Sieg Hall, a 1960s-vintage building that, according to department officials, has “fallen on hard times.”
For the past several years, the department has played on the irony of being housed in crumbling surroundings while maintaining its status as one of the country’s top programs. Lazowska has gone so far as to gather pieces that had fallen off Sieg Hall and pass them out to promising students who were considering attending the UW.
One potential student, after getting his “piece of the rock,” responded: “How could I say ‘no’ to a school that gave me a piece of their computer science building?”
After the move, CSE and the Department of Electrical Engineering will share Sieg Hall, which will also be used for general assignment classrooms.
For more about the Allen Center, see http://www.cs.washington.edu/building/.