WMU News

New WMU building opens at Lake Michigan College

Oct. 25, 2002

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- The grand opening of the new building housing Western Michigan University's Southwest branch campus took place today (Oct. 25) in Benton Harbor, marking the start of a new chapter in WMU's 85-year history of service to the area.

The WMU-Southwest building is located on Lake Michigan College's Napier Avenue campus, marking the first time a Michigan university has chosen to construct an instructional facility on a community college campus.

A result of a unique partnership between LMC and WMU, the $8.5 million building expands higher education opportunities for Southwest Michigan residents by allowing them to take their first two years of classes at LMC, then complete undergraduate and even graduate degrees at WMU--all without ever leaving the area.

"This partnership is a wonderful example of how we can enhance educational quality while we maximize the investment the people of the state of Michigan have made in us," says WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "It takes strong leadership to make such an innovative partnership a reality, and Sen. Harry Gast has been a true champion in this endeavor."

Floyd says WMU owes a special note of thanks to Gast, a longtime state legislator from St. Joseph who spearheaded efforts to fund the new WMU-Southwest building and has called the project an example of educational cooperation that can serve as model for the rest of the state and nation. Gast was recognized at the grand opening when the facility's atrium was named in his honor.

WMU began providing educational programs in Southwest Michigan in 1905 and opened a regional center in Benton Harbor in 1966. It broke ground on the 45,000-square-foot WMU-Southwest facility in August 2001 near LMC's main entrance.

The building was designed by Marshburn/Bunkley Associates of Kalamazoo and paid for by $6.3 million in state funds and $2.2 million raised by the University. It has a face of two-tone brick and insulating glass and two wings.

The wings are joined by the Gast Atrium, a two-story rotunda that encompasses a student study area on the second level and a computer laboratory and Commuter Student Commons on the main level where students can gather, study, relax and eat.

Other special features of the building include:

Space and offices for WMU's Center for Community Asset Building, which manages a wide range of the University's community outreach activities in Benton Harbor;

A Reading Clinic, complete with a diagnostic testing center, which will serve area K-8 students;

The Compressed Video Interactive Television Room that is capable of sending and receiving live audio and video instruction;

Two state-of-the-art science education laboratories;

Twelve classrooms, all with podiums wired with DVD and VCR controls as well as ceiling-mounted LCD projectors and screens;

An executive conference room capable of receiving audio and video; and

Administrative and faculty offices.

Dr. Alan G. Walker, WMU vice provost for extended university programs, says the WMU-Southwest facility combines many of the best features of WMU's six other regional campuses and takes them a step further.

"Each facility becomes more technologically advanced," he notes. "Each is just a little better than the one before. The new WMU-Southwest facility gives the University an imposing presence in this region. It will be an invaluable asset as we strive to respond to the academic, social and economic needs of area residents."

WMU-Southwest will offer a full slate of classes and programs beginning with the 2003 spring semester that starts in January.

Those offerings include doctoral and master's degrees in educational leadership; master's degrees in career and technical education, elementary education, public administration, reading, special education, social work and teaching in the middle school; and bachelor's degrees in elementary education, family studies with an emphasis in early childhood development, interdisciplinary health services, nursing and occupational education studies.

The facility also will offer graduate certificate programs in educational technology and holistic health care as well as graduate-level training that allows students to obtain various state of Michigan teaching endorsements.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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Western Michigan University
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