Wendy Peacock – Auburn University
Wendy Peacock was heavily involved in Auburn University’s push to become classified as a Carnegie R1 educational institution—requirements include awarding at least 20 research and scholarship doctoral degrees, spending around $5 million in total research and scoring highly in a research activity index calculation.
When the university received this coveted designation in 2018, Peacock was its assistant director of construction management. She was ensuring all the labs and other research buildings were conducive to the type of research being done at an R1 campus.
A short while later, in 2019, her efforts earned her a promotion to director of construction. In this new role, combined with her years on campus—she started as a construction project manager in May 2012—she was well equipped to tackle the university’s push in 2021 to enhance its research spaces and create hybrid and outdoor labs.
According to her, such renovations and new builds are one way the university maintains its status as R1.
“In the past 11 years at Auburn University, my biggest takeaway has been we’re not constructing buildings for a few years or even decades, but centuries,” Peacock says. “Hand-in-hand with that, we want Auburn to remain classified as R1 far into the future.”
STEMs of a research university
Located amongst the rolling hills of east central Alabama, Auburn University was established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College—and is now home to nearly 32,000 students across well over 400 buildings.
Due to the longevity of the architecture and buildings across the campus, Peacock appreciates the chance to be involved in any new construction. She and her team often tackle renovations or gut a building completely, but rarely does the opportunity come along to build from the blueprint up.
They are getting such a chance with the new STEM+Ag Sciences Complex, which will bring science, math, agriculture and three other departments under one roof. The $224 million project will house all instructional and research programs in these categories, including those of geosciences, biological sciences, entomology and plant pathology, horticulture, and crop, soil and environmental sciences.
“This will be a behemoth project compared to most of the projects my team and I have undertaken in the past decade or so,” Peacock told Blueprint in July 2023. “It will completely transform our campus landscape.”
The 265,000-square-foot three-building complex will replace a former residence hall when it opens in a few years. It will also have wet and dry research labs, hybrid labs that can convert into traditional classrooms when needed, and spaces for collaboration. Despite its size, it will take up less square footage than having the current departments in separate buildings. In fact, Parker Hall, Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum and Funchess Hall will all be demolished once the complex is ready for students, staff and faculty.
“We hope to break ground before the end of 2023,” Peacock says.
Constructing a familial and memorable atmosphere
While the STEM+Ag Sciences Complex is an immense, unique and exciting project, it’s not the only one on Peacock’s plate. In fact, she’s also working on the new three-story, 167,000-square-foot College of Education building, which is located next to the complex and is slated for construction to be completed in fall 2024. It will include classrooms, administrative spaces and instructional labs.
Her team also completed two buildings in the past year: the Rane Culinary Science Center and the Woltosz Football Performance Center.
“I have oversight in many projects, and I’m involved in anything remotely related to construction,” she says.
She has a deep connection to Auburn University, not just because she’s been working here for the past 11 years and helping it evolve. She obtained her bachelor’s in management information systems here in 2002 and earned a master’s degree in building construction in May 2023.
She says she loves the family atmosphere and culture at Auburn, on the academic side but more on the professional side. In fact, when one of the facilities team members was diagnosed with cancer, everyone rallied around them, bringing them meals and spending time with them during chemotherapy.
The facilities management team also holds an annual facilities-only picnic with various people on her team volunteering to cook or hand out food—or even participate in the carnival-type games, like a dunk tank. She and her team also try to go to lunch at least once a month to relax and discuss their lives outside of work.
She says the camaraderie and collaboration make it even more fun to work at Auburn—and why she’s never considered leaving in over a decade.
“Our campus is continually evolving to meet the needs of staff, faculty and our students,” Peacock says. “Every day, I love coming to work because I know I’m working with my team to create a welcoming and supportive atmosphere that can benefit students not only now but well into their future professional lives.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. I 2024 Edition here.
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