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Campus News

Reconfiguration of Space

Jackson Campus
Changes are under way at the Jackson campus of Minnesota West Community & Technical College as faculty and staff continue to evaluate how existing brick-and-mortar facilities will best serve future students increasingly interested in learning online.

A full one-third of the college’s students are taking online courses, said campus dean Dennis Hampel, and that number will only increase. As it does, he said, it is imperative the campus takes steps to modify its facilities plan to match the trend.

For Hampel, a 43-year campus veteran, the evolution in higher learning has been fascinating to watch.

“I saw many of these buildings built,” he said of the Jackson campus. “But they were built for programs we offered back then that are totally different from the programs we offer now.”

Back then, the Jackson vocational school offered courses in carpentry, auto body repair, auto mechanics, appliance repair, plumbing, office secretary and production agriculture. Today’s offerings include such varied courses as cosmetology, computer science and information technology.

“Student demands have changed and the way students learn have changed,” Hampel said. “We, as a campus, need to change as well.” As the first step in a revamped overall facilities plan, the main campus building is currently undergoing a $200,000 renovation that will result in a new space for a growing IT program, a more logically located bookstore and a larger, more functional student lounge and recreation area.

“The new IT area will feature a classroom and lab in space that formerly housed the bookstore,” Hampel said. “The bookstore — which, in this day and age, is an intricate part of our marketing strategy — is being relocated right by the front door, across from the main administrative offices. The new student lounge and rec area will have pool tables and a Wii room in a larger area than what students had before.” The renovation will also allow for the relocation of some offices, Hampel said.

“It’s rethinking what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s taking a hard look at our square footage and figuring out what is needed and where, and what is no longer required because of the changing dynamic of higher education.”

Hampel said faculty and staff at the Jackson campus are excited about the current changes under way and are looking forward to further changes in the near future.

“This is just a first step,” Hampel said of the current renovation. “We’re in the planning stages right now for the next bonding bill in 2014, which we hope will help support the next phase of our facilities plan.”

Coincidentally, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Jackson campus.

“The original building was built in 1964, the next part in 1965 and the main building in ’75, followed by several additions over the years,” Hampel said.

“To see and be a part of such change — not only in the way we impart skill and knowledge to students, but also change in the facilities from which we do that — all in the course of a 50-year period of time is truly remarkable.”

From Jackson County Pilot, Justin Lessman, Publisher