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magazine home > archives > fall 2003 > features

Come celebrate! On Nov. 19, the University of Memphis cordially invites you to the grand opening of the FedEx Institute of Technology, hailed as the single largest project in school history. It is an event you won't want to miss.

A Perfect FIT

Facade of FedEx Institute of Technology building
The University's FedEx Institute of Technology will provide U of M faculty and staff enhanced research opportunities.

For technology lovers, it certainly will be a treat. For alumni, friends of the University, community leaders and the entire University of Memphis campus, it will mean much more: the beginning of a new era at the U of M.

When the 93,000-square-foot FedEx Institute of Technology (FIT) officially opens during ceremonies Nov. 19, the U of M will possess a technology education center unrivaled in the Mid-South. The institute will be a place where students, faculty and business leaders will conduct innovative research of the highest caliber. FIT could one day put the University on the research level of acclaimed institutes such as MIT.

Alumni are invited to attend the dedication, ribbon cutting and open house on Nov. 19 at the building site (near the corner of Central Avenue and Patterson). A gala for CEOs, high-level donors and other VIPs will end the festivities Nov. 19.

The events of the day will offer something for everyone. Scheduled to speak at the 11 a.m. dedication are FedEx Corp. CEO Frederick W. Smith, University President Shirley Raines and other dignitaries. The official ribbon-cutting immediately follows the dedication.

Also on Nov. 19, event attendees can tour the facility during the all-day open house and witness technology demonstrations that may astound and awe. Match wits with "Auto Tutor," a computer with software that allows it to "think" as a human would. Become immersed in demonstrations and displays by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Steelcase, ADL Labs and the U of M's Ground Water Institute, Advanced Learning Center, Feinstone Center for Genomic Research and Center for Supply Chain Management.

Live music and refreshments served via the facility's Cyber Cafe will be offered.

"This facility will put us on the map in many, many ways," says Jim Phillips (BA '73, MBA '76), chair and executive director of the institute. "We will become the technology breeding ground of the region.

"It takes a project such as this and a vision we are now realizing to produce a signature program that will attract national and international attention," he says.

Favorable exposure of the institute and its capabilities will help elevate the U of M to a higher-tier ranking of universities nationwide, University administrators say.

The institute is a $23 million collaboration between the U of M and FedEx Corp. The shipping giant invested $5 million in the project, with the remainder coming from city, county and state governments.

A goal of the institute is to produce a digitally savvy work force with programs that will prepare U of M students for the latest high-tech jobs. Interdisciplinary research will be conducted at the facility, which also will serve as a forum through which local businesses can collaborate to find solutions to real-world problems.

Scientists from across campus will be able to access the latest high-tech tools and have more opportunities for interaction with off-campus researchers. The entire fourth floor of the building will house the Center for Intelligent Systems, where U of M faculty continue to develop the "Auto Tutor" project.

The institute will include several centers for many new and ongoing research projects across campus. The Center for Spatial Analysis will include the Herff College of Engineering's Ground Water Institute, which is working on ways to solve drinking-water problems that kill thousands of people around the world each day.

The Center for Multimedia Arts will help "digitalize" the entertainment business, while the Center for Life Sciences will offer a virtual wet lab and nanotechnology.

Development of aviation engineering will be possible in the Center for Next Generation Transportation. Other areas include the Center for Digital and Regional Development, the Center for Supply Chain Management and the Center for Managing Emerging Technology.

The institute - hailed as the single largest project in school history by Dr. Raines - signals the U of M's overwhelming commitment to cutting-edge research and higher education. On Nov. 19, come celebrate the future of learning.

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