WMU News

Ground broken for WMU facility at Lake Michigan College

Aug. 27, 2001

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Ground was broken on the Lake Michigan College campus today (Aug. 27) for a new building to house Western Michigan University-Southwest, marking the first time a Michigan university has chosen to build an instructional facility on a community college campus.

The $8.4 million building, designed by Marshburn/Bunkley Associates of Kalamazoo, is being constructed on LMC's Napier Avenue (Benton Harbor) campus, near the main entrance, and is expected to be completed and open for classes in fall 2002. The 45,000-square-foot building is being built as part of a unique partnership that will expand higher education opportunities for Southwest Michigan residents by allowing them to take their first two years of classes at LMC, complete their bachelor's degrees at WMU and even move on to graduate programs without ever leaving the area.

The project will be paid for with $6.3 million in state funds approved when Gov. John Engler signed a capital outlay bill July 19. The remaining $2.1 million will come from a fund-raising effort already under way at WMU.

"Western Michigan University has been committed to the citizens in Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties for more than 85 years," said WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "Our partnership with LMC and this wonderful new facility will allow us to expand that commitment, increase the number of our academic offerings and deepen our involvement in the community. We are grateful to Gov. Engler and the Legislature for approving state funding for this work, and we owe a special note of thanks to Sen. Harry Gast for his steadfast support for this important project."

Gast, chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee, was one of several Michigan legislators who attended the groundbreaking, along with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton. Gast spearheaded efforts to fund the partnership initiative and has praised the effort as a model that assures cooperation in education and could serve as an example for the rest of the state and nation.

LMC President Richard J. Pappas pointed to that model as an effort that will make the most of both institutions' resources.

"We are proud to be working with Western Michigan University to bring this resource to the community. The partnership that we are building is a natural extension of the educational opportunities we currently offer at Lake Michigan College," said Pappas. "This type of innovative thinking about delivering educational services leverages the strengths both colleges bring to this project."

The new WMU-Southwest facility will have a face of two-tone brick and insulating glass. Its two wings will be joined by a two-story rotunda that will provide a gathering place for students on the main floor and a computer lab on the second floor. It also will feature two science education laboratories; 12 classrooms, including an interactive video classroom; two conference rooms; and two designated student study areas. In addition to its instructional focus, the building also will include space for a reading clinic and offices for WMU's Center for Community Asset Building, a unit that manages a wide range of community outreach activities in Benton Harbor.

Besides providing both institutions with an opportunity to expand academic offerings, being located in close proximity will allow LMC and WMU to enjoy economies of scale by sharing library, bookstore and other key resources.

WMU began providing educational programs to the citizens of Berrien, Van Buren and Cass counties in 1916 and established a permanent presence in the region in 1966. WMU-Southwest, currently housed at St. Joseph High School, offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs and has an average annual enrollment of 700 to 800 students. These numbers are expected to double within two to three years after the new facility opens and the University begins adding more programs and offering daytime classes.

Graduate programs that are currently offered at WMU-Southwest are the Graduate Certificate Program in Educational Technology and master of arts degrees in elementary education, educational leadership and reading. At the undergraduate level, the University offers bachelor of arts degrees in elementary education and in general university studies with a concentration in applied liberal studies and bachelor of science degrees in nursing and in general university studies with concentrations in both health studies and occupational education studies.

By the time the new facility opens, five additional programs will be offered: a master of arts degree in teaching in the middle school; a master of public administration degree; a bachelor of arts degree in professional studies; a bachelor of science degree in family studies with a child development emphasis; and a bachelor of science degree in interdisciplinary health services.

LMC was founded in 1946 and has grown to include three campus sites in Benton Harbor and Niles, including it's new M-TEC campus in Benton Harbor's Edgewater Industrial Park, which opened in fall 2000. More than 7,000 students attend academic classes or corporate training sessions at LMC annually. They come from a service area that extends from Elkhart, St. Joseph, and LaPorte counties in Indiana north to South Haven, Mich., and includes a population of 270,000. More than 200,000 people also attend cultural events, meetings and conferences at LMC each year.

WMU media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu
LMC media contact: Laura Kraklau, 616 927-8198

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