Thursday, February 29, 2024

New UGA Poultry Science Building welcomes its first students

By Jordan Powers University of Georgia

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ATHENS, Ga. — As students return to campus fresh from holiday break, one building is welcoming students for the very first time.

Situated on University of Georgia’s South Campus, the 70,000-plus square-foot Poultry Science Building is the new home of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Department of Poultry Science.

“At UGA, we have been conducting transformational poultry research, instruction and Extension outreach for decades — research that has changed the way the poultry industry operates, instruction that equips the next generation of leaders, and outreach that supports industry and producers at all levels, from the individual to the corporation,” said Nick T. Place, CAES dean and director. “I look forward to continuing to show the world that here in Athens, Georgia, UGA and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are leading the way in poultry science.”

The new building will provide nearly double the space per student in each classroom, growing from roughly 17 square feet to 28 to 30 square feet per student. Two-person tables replace individual wooden desks and mobile, 40-inch whiteboards for each group of six students tie into UGA’s active learning efforts.

“A big thing for students will be the sheer sense of space,” said Todd Applegate, poultry science department head and R. Harold and Patsy Harrison Chair in Poultry Science. “Nearly half of the poultry science faculty participated in active learning sessions within the last year — we are excited to combine these efforts with this new collaborative space to train the next generation of poultry science leaders.”

Industry leaders, following a commitment by the UGA Office of the President and the UGA Foundation, came together to fund the Abit Massey Classroom, named after a longstanding powerhouse in the poultry industry who has been influential to countless students and industry professionals across the state. Although the large classroom holds more than 100 students, multi-tiered seating enables students to easily collaborate and work together.

Students will not be the only ones to benefit from a more collaborative space.

“We’ve moved from an era of individual faculty having labs to more collaborative labs,” said Applegate, who also serves as CAES assistant dean for international programs. In addition to the teaching lab, the new research labs group four to five faculty around various themes to balance more complex research and UGA Cooperative Extension work, covering basic to applied research. “With thematic areas and collaborative spaces, I’m excited for what this model can spur just based on proximity.”

One unique space within the Poultry Science Building is the addition of a food safety intervention space, where researchers can run validations of certain poultry processing methods to reduce common foodborne pathogens.

Infrastructure updates, while not as glamorous, bring the building to modern-day standards. Air turnover rates and additional safety features within labs have been implemented, along with a generator connected to the building to provide emergency power to freezers to prevent the loss of samples. Noisy and heat-generating equipment has been moved out of lab spaces and into “freezer farms” so labs stay quieter and cooler.

“All of the labs are trying to accommodate some future in mind,” Applegate said. “Increased electrical capacity and free-standing benches will allow for more flexibility in arranging spaces and more teaching lab spaces will reduce issues in scheduling.”


The art of poultry science

On their way to their classrooms and labs, students will pass two murals, commissioned with private funds, by local artist and lifelong Georgia resident David Hale.

“The work of art I have designed as a part of the UGA Poultry Science Building is born from my experiences attending UGA and from the deep reverence I have developed for poultry via caring for backyard chickens with my family for the last 10 years and birdwatching for the last two decades,” Hale said in his artist statement for the project.

The murals — located in the South Commons and lobby — are anchored by a core component of poultry science: the egg.

“The egg is a powerful symbol to represent the great power of inception present in the educational experience and the fertility of thought and novel discovery that has historically been present in the Department of Poultry Science and UGA as an institution in general,” Hale said.

In the lower-level mural, a hen is seen sitting on an egg with a rooster nearby, head turned. Upstairs the story continues in the lobby where newborn chicks join the hen and rooster. The chickens are seen eating under the sun, with the rooster and hen showing the chicks where to find seeds. “This illustration symbolically represents the efforts of the donors offering the Department of Poultry Science and its faculty and students the support to help them in their educational and career growth and development,” Hale said.

The Poultry Science Building has been made a reality through a $54.1 million public-private partnership, with half of the funding goal allocated by the Georgia legislature for planning and design, phase I construction, and equipment, plus AV and equipment assistance from a federal grant. Additional private and industry support combine with public funding to uphold UGA as the global epicenter of poultry science

The Luther and Susie Harrison Foundation, R. Harold and Patsy Harrison Foundation, Pilgrim’s, Wayne Sanderson Farms and dozens of companies and individuals joined the effort to open the Poultry Science Building. Donor naming opportunities are still available as fundraising continues for the building.

“Through our campaigns we’ve solidified and built new partnerships with a many in the private sector. We’ve had conversations on how we can establish long-term relationships, including working with our students,” Applegate said. “The students are the future employees of these companies; the research coming out of the labs in the new building will not only benefit students, but also chicken meat and egg commodity bases. We’re not only meeting student needs while they are here but introducing them to the future.”

To learn more about the Poultry Science Building project, visit


Jordan Powers is a public relations coordinator and writer for UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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