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Vice Provost Tom Chiles Talks About the New Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society

Boston College’s new Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society will be a “first of its kind building,” the Vice Provost for Research and Academic Planning Tom Chiles said.

The Institute will be named for Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, BC ’82, and his wife, Kim Gassett-Schiller, in honor of their large gift to the university.

The idea of integrated science came up in conversation around 2006 at Boston College, but was put on the back burner in 2008 due to the financial crisis. Four years ago, when Chiles was asked to be Vice Provost, he worked to develop this idea further. It adjusted into integrated and applied science because most undergraduate programs needed more application. The “Society” part of the Institute’s title is about aligning research with the Jesuit mission and applying it to society.

“It took on a life of its own,” Chiles said. “It went from science-centric to still science-centric, but now transdisciplinary.”

“The Institute will have courses and skill sets that all students can use. If students have an idea, they can prototype it. There will be tools to do some field implementation, and if it gets that far the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship is right there.”

The university plans to hire a director to help craft the vision first before they can begin to work on specific projects to “develop and deploy new tools and technologies...and promote partnerships with industry and the public and private sectors,” as was said in the original announcement. The foundations for the research that will go on in the building are built on faculty research that are already in the works.

“A lot of energy and effort has gone towards the vision, academic programs and designing physical space,” Chiles said. The Institute will be built where Cushing Hall now stands and is planned to fit with the current BC architecture. Chiles hopes for a structure that will foster innovation and collaboration.

“One thing we want to do is to have what is going on inside the building on display from the outside. So that any student regardless of major, any faculty member regardless of area of expertise, who is walking by or walking down Beacon Street will say, ‘I want to be in there, I want to be a part of that.’”  

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