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  • Erica Patton

Electrical Outages, Construction and Transform UMSL: What’s Going on?

By: Erica Patton

On Jan. 30, Clark Hall on North Campus went dark after an electrical outage occurred during the day. Many students were found frantically looking for their temporary classroom as they first found out this information via a piece of paper on the window of Clark.

Class reassignments on paper on the day of the electrical outage by Erica Patton

This electrical outage caused other important buildings like the university libraries to temporarily shut down, a major inconvenience for students deep in their studies. This is not the first time the power has gone out on campus. What’s the deal?

In celebration of UMSL’s 60-year anniversary, Transform UMSL has been on an ongoing mission to improve the campus with various renovations and re-imaginings. This has been noticeably visible right behind the Thomas Jefferson Library and next to the Social Sciences building (SSB).

Construction at SSB by Harjas Singh

Many days of the semester seem to consist of hardhats, loud construction noises, maneuvering through SSB and unfortunately, occasional power outages. On behalf of UMSL Facilities, it is important to have patience as they work to brighten the future of UMSL and clear the way for people to get to class.

While communicating with Executive Director Matthew Prsha, I was able to get some clarity about this projected plan. A major component of Transform UMSL includes updating the power distribution network throughout campus. Here, we will see improvements in electrical cables, conduits, switchgear systems within the substation and buildings and manholes. One of the steps being taken to improve the campus also includes a three-phase electrical upgrade plan with the first step of restoring power already taken care of.

The second phase of this plan includes installing a redundant feeder (a type of transmission line) which will provide much-needed stability to an aging system. This is projected to be finished in early March 2024.

Finally, the third phase focuses on the design and construction of the electrical distribution. This process projects to survey the seven feeders throughout North Campus, analyze the South Campus power distribution and repair feeder cables throughout campus to provide more stability in power.

Since UMSL Facilities is continuously striving to achieve a more suitable power distribution, there may be times along the way when power will need to be halted momentarily. Along with electrical outages, there will still be delays in getting to and from class around construction on North Campus for several more months as the restoration process continues.

When I spoke with Bella Lancaster, a commuter student at UMSL, she explained that the actual construction doesn’t bother her, but she could see how it could affect other classes close to construction and people who have to walk around it. “I do wonder what they’re doing and it would be cool if they made it more known what they were doing,” said Lancaster. “The construction workers are really good at staying out of our way so I’m happy about that,” she said.

The construction has also gotten the attention of Dr. Violaine White, an associate teaching professor of French here at UMSL. “The work being done in our building has had a bigger impact on our daily life since we are waiting for our meeting room to be available again. The only bothersome aspect is that I have to travel through SSB to cross the quad and get to my office. The nice thing is that I have been bumping into colleagues that I don’t usually see,” said White. She said that the construction process will bring essential improvements to campus and that she looks forward to its completion.

Photo by Harjas Singh

This plan is projected to span over the next 5 years and is estimated to be finished by the end of 2026. In 2023, the FY24 funding included about $40 million provided by the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA, an additional $20 million in ARPA funding from the state of Missouri and $40 million in capital improvement, also made possible by ARPA.

Overall, this $100 million project of private and public investments is set to reimagine the academic experience at UMSL.

As these monumental improvements are aligned with the Campus Master Plan, a mission to elevate the physical attributes of UMSL, there is also the Strategic Plan and the Strategic Enrollment Plan set to make a change to UMSL.

The Strategic Plan aims to increase student success outcomes, strengthen research, contribute more to community engagement, improve economic development and articulate care to the community and campus. In alignment with the Strategic Plan, the Strategic Enrollment Plan’s mission is to meet the enrollment and retention goals of the Strategic Plan. Here, we will see leaders tend to four areas of management including enrollment facilitation, marketing, outreach, and advocacy, academic programs and pathways, and retention and student success outcomes.

Many students are well aware of the renovation at SSB but may be shocked to know that many aspects of UMSL are subject to change here soon for the better. An extensive plan shows many estimated dates and the overall layout of their new home. 

While there are many moving parts to this project, some of the things that Transform UMSL has planned to work on are a J.C. Penney North Building renovation, Music and Fine Arts Building renovation, Social Sciences Building modernization and expansion, Thomas Jefferson Library and Mercantile Library renovations, JCPenney South Building renovation and many other fine tunings that campus needs. 

Construction photos by Harjas Singh

As UMSL’s makeover takes over a major part of campus, management has been trying their best to send emails with as much information as possible regarding information on classroom changes when necessary, future electrical issues and any other needed information to make things run smoothly. 

Though many students are exhausted trying to find their way to class through SSB to get to Clark Hall, Lucas Hall and even the Millennium Student Center (MSC), this plan to reinvent UMSL is estimated to become a stunning addition to campus. 

For more information on this process, visit Transform UMSL to see the estimated new look, and stay tuned to see what other possibilities are in store for


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