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engineering south staircases

CEAT landmark undergoes renovation, welcomes Zink Center for Competitive Innovation

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

A historic building in Oklahoma State University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology has received a much-needed upgrade.

OSU unveiled a revitalized Engineering South this fall and celebrated the launch of the new Zink Center for Competitive Innovation housed within. The building, which originally opened in 1939, had been under construction since June 2021.

On Sept. 1, the university held a private reopening ceremony for donors and other guests that included speeches from OSU President Kayse Shrum and best-selling author, award-winning podcast host and psychotherapist Amy Morin. A public ribbon-cutting event was held the next day prior to the football season opener against Central Arkansas, giving the entire Cowboy family a chance to tour the updated space.

While Engineering South’s facade has remained the same, its interior has been completely transformed. The multi-million dollar revamp of Engineering South completely renovated the 84-year-old building, adding new classroom space as well as modern utilities and technology.

“The reopening of the remodeled Engineering South completes the modernization of the homes of all the academic units within CEAT,” said Dr. John Veenstra, interim dean of CEAT. “The transformed space provides state-of-the-art classrooms, offices and meeting areas for faculty and students which will enhance our ability to deliver high-quality instruction and mentoring of our students.”

The building now joins a host of newly renovated and constructed buildings within CEAT, including Engineering North, ENDEAVOR and the Bert Cooper Structures and Materials Lab. The renovation has already greatly enhanced the student learning experience, and students are excited to be in the building and utilize the new space.

New features within Engineering South include glass walls and taller ceilings that amplify the space while keeping original details intact — such as beaming and the grand central staircase — helping to maintain some of the building’s original character.

Veenstra said maintaining the original staircase was an important element of the renovation’s design.

“Those stairs represent a connection to the generations of engineers who came before,” Veenstra said. “Then they went out into the world and used their education to accomplish amazing things that have benefited Oklahoma, the nation and the world.”

Engineering South also features a new layout with CEAT Scholarships and Recruitment, Career Services and Special Programs on the first floor, the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering on the second floor, and the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering on the third floor.

An addition to the east end of the building houses the 207-seat Chickasaw Nation STEM Auditorium, providing an optimal space to hold larger classes.

ribbon cutting ceremony

Architecture firm Rand Elliott Architects, led by CEAT alumnus Rand Elliott, designed the project and worked with the departments to brighten the building’s concept. Each floor of the building features its own unique architectural customizations, designed to meet the needs of the school or department occupying that floor.

Dr. Sandip Harimkar, head of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said the unit is happy to make the move to Engineering South after being housed in the General Academic Building during the renovation.

“We have felt somewhat disconnected from CEAT and the other schools within our college,” Harimkar said. “We are eager to move closer to the college community again, which will promote cross-departmental collaboration and enhance our ability to engage with our students.”

Numerous collaborative and interdisciplinary spaces will encourage students and faculty to work across departments to learn from each other. The project itself was a collaborative effort, taking countless partners and members of the Cowboy family to make it a reality.

Zink Center for Competitive Innovation

On the east end of the building, a new space will inspire the next generation of innovators at OSU.

The Zink Center for Competitive Innovation is an open, collaborative space that can be flexibly configured for informal conversations, formal group meetings or seminar presentations. It was funded by a major gift from the Zink Family Foundation.

A symbol of Oklahoma ingenuity, the John Zink Trackburner Indy-style racing car will be on display in the Zink Center for Competitive Innovation.
A symbol of Oklahoma ingenuity, the John Zink Trackburner Indy-style racing car will be on display in the Zink Center for Competitive Innovation.

“The new Zink Center for Competitive Innovation wouldn’t be possible without the visionary support of Darton and Jamie Zink,” Shrum said. “It’s not a coincidence that the Zinks and OSU have such a close partnership — we think alike. Through the Zink Center, they are committed to shaping ideal graduates who are ethical leaders with competitive spirits who help others and who get things done. Darton calls it grit, and at OSU, we call it living the Cowboy Code.”

Dr. Dan Fisher is the inaugural director of the Zink Center, which will allow for more face-to-face faculty mentorship opportunities for CEAT’s competitive student teams, such as the concrete canoe, Cowboy Racing and Bullet Racing teams. The center also will ease potential collaboration between CEAT and OSU Spears School of Business students through the Riata Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“I’ve seen firsthand in my life how competition and innovation lead to success,” said Darton Zink, president and CEO of Zeeco Inc. “This center will help to foster those qualities for the next generation of leaders while also providing them with lessons and experiences about the importance of grit and determination.”

The Zink Center will also play into OSU’s land-grant mission. The unique experiences and resources offered by the center will help prepare students so they enter the world ready to solve tomorrow’s challenges.

“Oklahoma State has a land-grant mission of making good communities great,” Shrum said. “As a part of that, we want our students to go out into their communities and be empowered to make a difference. By learning in the center, students gain those competencies. That really is what this is about.”

Photos by: Bryanna Freer

Story by: Grant Ramirez and Dakota Keith | STATE Magazine

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