Local advocate and retired educator Gayle Batey has donated a monetary gift to the construction of Cal State Bakersfield's upcoming Energy and Engineering Innovation Building, which is set to become a hub of discovery and ingenuity in the Central Valley.

Batey declined to disclose the amount of the gift, university officials said.

“With this gift, my family and I honor my late husband, Ben, in his life’s passion. Ben was a biology and chemistry major at Vanderbilt University and taught biology for seven years in the Kern High School District,” said Batey in a news release. “Throughout his life, Ben always remained open to supporting the sciences and education.”

The Energy and Engineering Innovation Building will be a state-of-the-art facility that supports modern, high impact practices in teaching; cutting-edge, collaborative, interdisciplinary research; and community outreach and partnerships, according to a university master plan proposal. It will house the Department of Physics and Engineering, the California Energy Research Center, CERC affiliated faculty across disciplines, the Fab Lab (an advanced digital-fabrication laboratory), the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering Office of Grants and Outreach, as well as teaching laboratories, student-faculty research labs and a 240-seat auditorium and atrium, which will be named for the Batey family.

The building will be a tri-level space of about 60,000 square feet located just to the south of the Science III building, said Jennifer Self, CSUB director of public affairs and communications.

The university is currently in the fundraising phase of the project, Self said, and a construction start date and projected opening haven’t been determined yet.

Kern County's economy and its low educational attainment levels make it an ideal place for an educational facility that focuses on careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM as it's known. The county ranks first in the nation in oil production, has the country’s largest solar and wind energy facilities and is the leading energy provider for California, producing 75 percent of the state's oil and 58 percent of its natural gas, according to the master plan proposal.

"Ninety percent of all new majors have been STEM-related ... the need is just amazingly huge," Self said.

CSUB has put a larger emphasis on STEM fields in recent years. The California Energy Research Center was formed in 2013 with the mission of connecting faculty and students with local energy-related industries and agencies. The CSUB Extended University also began offering a petroleum engineering post-baccalaureate certificate in 2015 with additional majors and programs offered in following years.

CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny sees the building "as the epicenter for research and invention in our region, a place where no idea is off limits, no problem too daunting to solve," according to a news release. "This will be a game-changer for our Valley.”

In 2018 local business leader Angelo Mazzei and his wife Mary donated $500,000 toward the Energy and Engineering Innovation Building.

For more information, contact CSUB University Advancement at 661-654-2136.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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