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Equipment, murals and displays are still months away from installation, but interior walls are going up in the East Tennessee State Universitys Gray Fossil Sites visitors center for exhibit rooms, laboratories, offices and spaces.

Its nice to see so much drywall going up, Dr. Steven Wallace, ETSUs lead paleontologist at the site, said while conducting a tour recently of the construction site and neighboring dig areas. Its really coming along nicely.
Equipment, murals and displays are still months away from installation, but interior walls are going up in the East Tennessee State University's Gray Fossil Site's visitors center for exhibit rooms, laboratories, offices and spaces.

“It's nice to see so much drywall going up,” Dr. Steven Wallace, ETSU's lead paleontologist at the site, said while conducting a tour recently of the construction site and neighboring dig areas. “It's really coming along nicely.”

Under construction off Tennessee Highway 75 near Daniel Boone High School, the 33,000-square-foot facility is about 70 percent complete, putting it slightly ahead of schedule. ETSU officials expect to open the center to researchers and the public in mid-2007.

The center will include space for the public to view and learn about fossils unearthed at the site and instructional space for ETSU classes, school groups and public lectures.

The second level also will feature an observation deck overlooking the digs, as well as a ramp onto the site for research access.

The center was funded by an $8 million federal transportation grant, and ETSU has been working to garner about $2 million in matching funds.

Tennessee Department of Transportation road crews uncovered the fossil-rich locale in 2000 as they widened and rerouted portions of Tennessee Highway 75 near Daniel Boone High School.

Estimated at 4.5 million to 7 million years old based on the presence of short-legged rhinoceroses, the Gray Fossil Site is the sole Miocene Epoch site in this part of the country.
Digs have unearthed more than 40 specimens of fossilized tapirs, animals resembling pigs but closely related to horses. No longer found in East Tennessee, tapirs still live in other parts of the world. ETSU recently unearthed its first complete tapir specimen.

Other finds have included the world's oldest known red panda specimen, as well as species of bear, elephant, saber-toothed cat and alligator, in addition to numerous plant fossils.
For more information, visit ETSU's fossil site pages at www.etsu.edu/grayfossilsite/ on the Internet. (Johnson City Press, Aug. 13, 2006)

Officials with Jackson State Community College and the University of Tennessee-Martin are calling their new partnership the first of its kind, offering JSCC agriculture students the opportunity to transfer to UTM's program seamlessly.

"To maintain our edge, we have to have these kinds of programs," JSCC President Bruce Blanding said during a joint press conference recently.

The two-year college's agricultural program had been experiencing a decrease in students, and officials had considered phasing out the classes. But that decision would have meant no community college agricultural education would exist in west Tennessee.

To keep the program alive, officials wanted to give students the opportunity to further their studies with a four-year degree.

"Traditionally after completing their associate degree, the students would go right to work," Blanding said. "But what we've learned is that students need a four-year degree in this field. There is a tremendous amount of skill required in agriculture."

Both institutions believe they are maximizing their resources by partnering in this manner - each hoping to bolster its enrollment.

JSCC's overall enrollment is already up by 10 percent this year, according to school officials. (The Jackson Sun, Aug. 18, 2006)

Tennessee Tech University nursing students are another step closer to having a new building to house their program of study, as well as all students having a new Student Health Services office.

The university recently accepted a $17.39 million bid from Hardaway Construction Corporation of Tennessee for the construction of the new facility, and the State Building Commission gave its go-ahead to begin the project.

After receiving the notice to proceed, the general contractor, based in Nashville, has approximately 450 days -- which includes 115 built-in inclement weather days -- to complete the building project, Binkley said.

At that rate, the new building -- the first ever built specifically for TTU's 26-year-old nursing program -- will be completed approximately by Thanksgiving 2007, and the first classes could be held in it as early as as the spring 2008 semester.

The site of the construction will be at the far end of the campus's Main Quad, on the corner of 7th Street and North Mahler, where the old Smith Quad residence hall complex formerly stood. That location will serve as an anchor, linking the new nursing building with a major entrance to the area Cookeville planning officials have designated as the city's medical district.

In addition to allowing TTU to nearly triple its number of nursing students, the new building will provide the necessary technology -- such as computerized patient simulators -- to educate 21st century nurses. Other features of the building will include state-of-the-art classrooms, clinical labs and faculty facilities, a 282-seat auditorium, other conference and meeting rooms and an updated Student Health Services facility. (Cookeville-Herald Citizen, Aug. 13, 2006)