WMU News

Southwest Regional Center moves to Lake Michigan College

March 17, 2000

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- A new partnership with Lake Michigan College and a new home for WMU's Southwest Michigan Regional Center in the center of the LMC campus could become a model for university/community college collaboration across the state.

That's the message shared by University, LMC and state officials at a March 17 news conference in Benton Harbor to announce WMU's planned move to a new $6.5 million building at LMC next year. Authorization to begin planning the new 45,000 square-foot facility was approved Dec. 29 when Gov. John Engler signed a state capital outlay bill.

The WMU building, which will be constructed at LMC's Napier Avenue campus in Benton Harbor, is expected to have 12 to 14 classrooms, a reading clinic and a computer laboratory. It could be finished and ready for classes by the fall 2001 semester. Infrastructure and site planning for the building already have begun.

Construction of the facility will mark the first time in Michigan that a four-year university has constructed a regional center on the campus of a community college. The intent is to offer students a seamless transition from two-year to degree-completion programs and to allow both schools to share resources and make the most efficient use of their facilities.

"We are a solid partner and we are here to stay and provide quality academic programs," said President Elson Floyd of WMU's intention to enhance its service to Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. "We've been committed to these counties for the past 80 years."

Although planning has just begun for the new regional facility, both schools already are collaborating to introduce new degree-completion programs in nursing and elementary education this coming fall. Additional degree completion programs could be added in the future, Floyd said, allowing "placebound" area residents to earn bachelor's degrees and take advantage of graduate course offerings without having to leave their home community.

"This is a pilot program that assures cooperation in education," said state Sen. Harry Gast, who spearheaded efforts to fund the model partnership. "What I like about this is that local communities and local jurisdictions have gotten together and made things happen for the good of the whole."

Richard Pappas, LMC president, said the college is excited about this new partnership with WMU for two reasons.

"First, we feel it is a perfect complement to our programs and services. Not only can area residents obtain an associate's degree through the programs we offer, but they now will be able to continue their education through greater local access to bachelor's and other advanced degrees," Pappas said. "Second, this partnership will lead to enhanced economic development opportunities for the area by helping to prepare people for the careers of today and tomorrow."

Steven Silcox, chairman of LMC's Board of Trustees, added that the new partnership is an extension of a natural connection between LMC and WMU.

"Many students from the area choose to go directly to Western, or attend Western after completing their first two years of study at LMC," Silcox said. "This collaboration makes that easier for them."

Floyd noted that the fundamental idea behind the new venture was to create an educational center that would be able to take advantage of the economies of scale and efficiencies afforded by combining the resources of both schools. Pappas agreed, noting that both schools would be able to collaborate on activities such as developing promotional materials, while such day-to-day needs as library and bookstore services and maintenance also could be shared.

Floyd said the joint effort will meet a number of important objectives, including establishing a model of community partnerships between two- and four-year higher education institutions and improving the ability for both LMC and WMU to respond to the academic, social and economic needs of Southwest Michigan residents.

"Higher education institutions must continually meet and satisfy new market demands in ways that are not redundant, wasteful or duplicative," Floyd said. "This partnership builds on the strengths of both of our institutions. It's a wonderful example of how we can enhance educational quality while maximizing the investment that the people and state of Michigan have made in us.

"We are deeply indebted to Gov. Engler and the Michigan legislature for their support of this project. We especially want to thank Sen. Gast for all of the work he did to help it become a reality."

LMC was founded in 1946 and has grown to include two full-service campus sites in Benton Harbor and Niles. With the fall 2000 opening of its M-TEC campus in the Edgewater Industrial Park in Benton Harbor, LMC will add a third facility to its campus roster. More than 6,000 students are served annually at its campuses.

WMU began providing educational programs to citizens of the area in 1916. It established a permanent presence in the region in 1966 with the opening of the Southwest Regional Center, which focuses on meeting the educational needs of working adults and part-time students.

The center has an average annual enrollment of 700 to 800 students and offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. With completion of the new facility, those numbers are expected to double.

For more information about the WMU Southwest Regional Center's programs or relocation plans, contact Leonard Seawood, center director, by calling (616) 983-1968 or (616) 387-1964.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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