Congressman James E. Clyburn presented Claflin University with a $17.4 million check on Monday for the construction of a Bioscience Research and Technology Center.

The development of the center is part of a “holistic approach” to advancing the university, President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack said.

“This is going to be game changing. It’s going to allow us to be one of the top research hubs,” Warmack said.

Funding for the facility came from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technologies.

Clyburn congratulated Warmack for the “visionary leadership you bring to this school.”

“Claflin has never lost its place, and when we came here, the president made it known,” Clyburn said.

The center will allow more research into bioscience, environmental science, computer science and cybersecurity for faculty and students. The university also plans to conduct research into artificial intelligence.

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“We know biotech is an area of the future. We want to be the place that produces the most outstanding minority and African American women and men in STEM. This will propel us to be one of the top leaders in the nation around biotechnology and computer science,” Warmack said.

Improvements to the programs are an “excellent recruitment tool” and will allow Claflin’s bioscience and computer science programs to appeal to the “best and the brightest,” he said.

Construction of the facility is set to begin in November.

Warmack thanked Dr. Verlie Tisdale, Dr. Karina Liles and Dr. Gloria McCutcheon, faculty from the School of Natural Science and Mathematics, for writing the proposal for the funds.

McCutcheon, chair of the department of biology, says the new facility will increase the “yearning for learning.”

“We think that this will expand our opportunities to get more faculty from around the world. It’s always good to be in a teaching or learning environment that looks good and feels good. We have some older buildings now and we’re looking forward to moving some of the courses to the new facility,” McCutcheon said.

The department developed a new online program that focuses on climate change, she said.

“We intend for it to be a global program with faculty and students from all over the world looking at the impact of climate change,” McCutcheon said.

Warmack thanked Clyburn for “believing in the outstanding work that happens in South Carolina and specifically here at Claflin University.”

In the last 18 months, Clyburn has helped award over $100 million to South Carolina institutions, Warmack said.

“This type of historic gift wouldn’t have happened without his dynamic commitment and leadership to the great state of South Carolina. None of this would have happened without great support. I can have all the vision in the world, but without resources, it can’t happen,” he said.

Clyburn was essential in acquiring $23 million from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant for the rehabilitation of Railroad Corner. The grant will fund a pedestrian bridge to connect South Carolina State University and Claflin to downtown Orangeburg.

“We are trying to make these two institutions a significant part of Orangeburg,” Clyburn said.

Warmack also provided updates on the university’s new student center. He says the student center will be completed in November. It will include a movie theater, Starbucks, Papa Johns, QDOBA and a large ballroom space.

“All of these things are open to the community. Everything we do is intentionally about what makes Orangeburg a better place to live, work and play,” Warmack said.

“Our goal is to educate them here and allow them to stay here in the great state of South Carolina.”

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