Trustees approve next step in establishing a Florida presence

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University will take a significant step forward in establishing an academic presence in Florida, thanks to an affirmative vote Oct. 6 by the WMU Board of Trustees.

Acting in formal session during a meeting in Grand Rapids, trustees authorized the administration to petition the Florida Board of Education for a provisional license to establish a physical presence in Southwest Florida. The move paves the way for the University to continue forward with an initiative in the Punta Gorda area that would:

  • Provide the College of Aviation with an additional location that would allow increased flight time and enhance the college's ability to respond to aviation industry needs.
  • Allow the College of Health and Human Services to advance the delivery of its nationally recognized programs by providing more health care settings for clinical rotations.
  • Expand the off-site delivery of academic programs through WMU's Extended University Programs operation.

Creating, strengthening partnerships

The Florida presence being considered and discussed with area leaders over the past two years would allow WMU to match it distinctive resources with the needs of a community, said Dr. Dawn Gaymer, associate provost for Extended University Programs, as she outlined the initiative for trustees. The result would be enhanced enrollment, new research opportunities and the chance to build significant new clinical and internship opportunities. 

"Aviation is central to this effort," Gaymer said. "Florida does not have a public university offering aviation programs ... and there is a real need for a research university in this region.

The WMU aviation college would partner with Florida Southwestern State College in a collaboration that would see FSSC provide an aircraft maintenance training program, while WMU would provide a flight program that would be an expansion of the one already in operation at the College's Battle Creek facility.  

While WMU currently delivers its aviation education programs to 775 undergraduates, industry demand is expected to dramatically increase.

"We have never seen a greater demand for aviation education—both nationally and internationally," Gaymer told the board.

In addition to the FSSC collaboration in aviation, the University would expand its relationship with the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, a private law school formally affiliated with WMU and located about an hour away.

Gaymer said growth in online education provided through WMU would likely increase as well, since online enrollment tends to cluster around the provider's physical location.

In addition to the initial areas of focus, Gaymer said, a number of other disciplines could be suggested for delivery by WMU. Those recommendations would be driven by market demand, community need, collaboration opportunities and the potential to provide greater access.

Other outcomes from Board of Trustees meeting

Trustees approve annual capital outlay priority list; aviation expansion effort in No. 1 slot

The Board gave its approval to the five-year Capital Outlay Building Project Priority list the state requires all state universities to submit annually.

A $20 million expansion to accommodate a renovation or expansion of a classroom building or a fleet maintenance building for the College of Aviation was at the top of the approved list. WMU has requested that outlay funding from the state. Renovation of Dunbar Hall is in the No. 2 slot on the list, and a new student union and student services center is prioritized at No. 3.

The list that must be submitted to the state requires priority ordering of all projects and anticipated funding sources, including information on buildings that will be built through gifts or issuance of University debt.

Board signs off on new University policy on honorary degrees

The new guidelines spell out the award purpose, eligibility, criteria, the makeup of a committee charged with recommending the degrees, a procedure for nomination and consideration, and a list of four appropriate honorary degree types and the work for which they will be conferred.

Honorary degrees, according to the new guidelines adopted, are used to recognize persons of exceptional scholarly, artistic, professional or humanitarian achievement who exemplify the mission of WMU and whose career or lifetime accomplishments serve as models of University ideals and aspirations for students, faculty, staff and alumni. Over the years, WMU has awarded honorary degrees to individuals ranging from Nelson Mandela and Michigan artist Gwen Frostic to poet Gwendolyn Brooks and the three Apollo 13 astronauts, Fred Haise, James Lovell and John Swigart.

Board OKs unique new master's degree program

The Master of Arts in Spirituality, Culture and Health is a 30-credit-hour online program that will supplement an existing graduate certificate program in the same area that has been offered since 2012.

Student interest in the topic and the fact that this will be the only master's degree program of its kind in the United States, led to development of the new degree offering. The new program that will be offered by the Department of Comparative Religion to what is expected to be a national and international audience.

Trustees approve Santorini lease extension in the Bernhard Center

Santorini Island Grill's extension is for a two-year lease for 1,450 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the Bernhard Center.

The extension becomes effective Jan. 8, 2018. Monthly rent payments are $2,320 or 9 percent of gross sales, whichever amount is greater.

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