Community update: Higher ed boasts major advancements in projects to help with economic development, workforce needs

Vigo County

Tribune-Star - Higher education in Vigo County in the past year made some major advancements in projects, programs and facilities that will help foster economic development and help address workforce needs both locally and statewide.

Indiana State University is moving forward with plans for a $66 million renovation/expansion of its Bailey College of Engineering and Technology.

Rose-Hulman continues planning for relocation of Rose-Hulman Ventures to an area closer to campus.

Ivy Tech is working with a major new company, ENTEK, on future workforce needs.

And Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College continues strengthening its equine studies programs and facilities.

Indiana State University

In spring, the Indiana Legislature approved a $66 million cash appropriation to renovate and expand facilities in the Bailey College of Engineering and Technology.

The project would modernize space for a Center for Technology Engineering & Design, and it includes interior improvements to the adjacent Myers Technology Center.

ISU chose the project factoring in growth potential for university programs that align with state workforce priorities, which include technology, engineering, and advanced manufacturing.

Construction is expected to begin by late next summer, and it’s anticipated the project would take at least two years.

The Bailey College of Engineering and Technology is benefiting in another way. In December, ISU announced an $8 million gift from Steve and Gloria Bailey, and most of it will be used for a scholarship fund.

The scholarship is for incoming freshmen majoring in a program within the college, and the $3,000 scholarships are renewable for up to two years. Fifty such scholarships will be offered each year, the university announced.

Also advancing at ISU are plans for an expanded and relocated Early Childhood Education Center.

The Vigo County Council approved $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act federal funding in June, while the Terre Haute City Council approved $1 million. The project also has received $1 million in READI funding and it is pursuing $1.5 million through other sources.

If all goes according to plan, the Early Childhood Education Center move and expansion to the “Chestnut Building” on the main campus is slated for summer 2025.

The move would have many benefits, including an updated facility as well as added capacity for high quality child care serving both ISU and the community.

It would benefit Bayh College of Education programs as well as other academic programs on campus. A future phase could provide professional development space and potentially additional child care capacity.

In another advancement, the university raised more than $30 million in fiscal year 2023, the highest annual fundraising amount in ISU history, according to the division of University Advancement.

The university has struggled with enrollment in recent years, but officials believe some of the new programs, facilities and initiatives will help turn the tide.

“We are enthusiastic about the future of Indiana State University as we continue to adjust to the changing national landscape of higher education,” President Deborah Curtis said.

ISU prides itself on being one of the largest employers in the Wabash Valley, she said. It will continue to invest in faculty, students and staff “to be the workforce development pipeline for our community, the state of Indiana and beyond.”

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Plans to re-locate and expand Rose-Hulman Ventures to Indiana 46 and 42 continue to move forward.

“The relocation of Rose-Hulman Ventures, the first step in creating an ‘Innovation Grove’ on our campus, continues to make progress,” said Rose-Hulman president Rob Coons.

Rose-Hulman is working with the U.S. Economic Development Administration on a grant application “and believe we are now very close to a resolution,” he said.

In September, the Vigo County Council approved $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project. Last year, the project received $1.5 million in READI funding.

The project will also require private philanthropic support, “which we are making progress in developing,” Coons said. “Our board of trustees are planning to discuss this project at their upcoming fall meeting … We hope to have a more specific update to announce later this fall.”

The goal has been for a groundbreaking next year, in conjunction with the college’s sesquicentennial.

Ventures would be relocated to the former Hulman farm, property owned by Rose-Hulman, which would enable it to expand programs and services.

“It’s time to invest in growth,” Brian Dougherty, senior director of Rose-Hulman Ventures, told the Vigo County Council on Sept. 5. “We want to foster a mindset of entrepreneurship and innovation, not only within Rose-Hulman, but within the region.”

The Phase 1 estimated budget for the project is $14 million in total, according to the Sept. 5 presentation.

Future goals call for development of Innovation Grove, focusing on entrepreneurial efforts; additional business units that could provide services for clients; and room for corporate partners to place their personnel to perform product development work.

It would provide additional educational and hands-on opportunities for Rose-Hulman students.

Ventures is Rose-Hulman’s engineering, consulting and business development arm; it’s currently located south of East Moyer Drive and east of Indiana 46/641, about six miles from campus.

In another development, Rose-Hulman’s historic Moench Hall has been undergoing a $25 million, four-phase renovation.

The project to renovate the college’s nearly 102-year-old original academic building was started in June 2021 and has been completed on time and within budget.

The renovation will provide avenues for classroom instruction, offer more opportunities for students and faculty to put STEM concepts into practice in state-of-the-art laboratories and give students new ways to enjoy life on campus.

Major aspects of the renovations include:

  • Creating a new Commons Café with new seating areas and living wall, where students, faculty, and staff can relax in between classes and enjoy selections from a new coffee shop.
  • Updating all faculty office areas, laboratories, lecture halls, and creating new office spaces for the mathematics and electrical and computer engineering departments.

The project will also improve accessibility; add student study spaces for mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering and mathematics departments; and improve energy efficiencies.

The renovation project was made possible because of the addition of the New Academic Building, opened for the 2021-22 school year, with its new chemistry and biochemistry laboratories and additional classrooms.

Ivy Tech

Ivy Tech in Terre Haute has begun discussions with ENTEK about workforce training to meet employment needs of the company, a lithium battery separator plant.

On Sept. 6, ENTEK conducted a groundbreaking in southern Vigo County for its $1.5 billion plant. Lithium battery separators will help fuel electric vehicles, also known as EVs.

Production is expected to begin in 2025, and when fully up and running, the plant will have about 650 high-paying jobs.

“We’ve had several meetings with ENTEK,” said Lea Anne Crooks, Ivy Tech Terre Haute chancellor. The state of Indiana is lending major support to the project.

“They are two years out, so we are doing a two-year ramp up plan with them to make sure we have a pipeline of workforce for them,” Crooks said.

The company is especially interested in future employees trained in advanced automation, robotics and HVAC programs.

Ivy Tech will work with K-12 partners as far as dual credit and dual enrollment programs; the Vigo County School Corp. has a robotics program.

The community college also will work with the company on apprenticeships and other programming.

At the same time, Ivy Tech will continue meeting the needs of existing employers to develop their workforce. When a major company comes in, “There will be some migration” of workers to the new company, Crooks said.

“We continue to work with different companies locally so they are in a solid situation as well,” she said.

In another initiative, Ivy Tech locally has developed a three-year strategic plan through 2025 in concert with a statewide Ivy Tech strategic plan.

The local plan focuses on four areas:

  • Teaching and learning — elevating effective teaching and learning throughout campus. That includes evaluating the best course delivery methods for each course, whether that is in-person, online or combined formats.
  • Workforce and careers — innovate in response to changing employer needs. It includes making sure students understand their career opportunities, including K-12 students.
  • Student experiences — aimed at improving student success. Part of it involves creating a welcoming environment that fosters a sense of belonging.
  • Operational excellence — maximizing resources to advance campus initiatives.

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Strengthening its equine studies program and equestrian facilities has been a major focus at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

When Ed Ferguson came to The Woods as chair of the equine department in 2021, there were 17 students enrolled in the equine program compared to this fall’s total of 40.

The college has been moving to a science-based curriculum with the addition of equine studies pre-veterinary science this fall and minors in breeding management and therapeutic riding.

The college received $1.5 million in READI funding last year, which it has been using to upgrade and expand equestrian facilities, including indoor and outdoor arenas.

The Vigo County Council recently approved $500,000 in federal ARPA funds, which also will help fund the upgrades.

The college hopes to improve equine event amenities and increase the number of collegiate equine competitions as well as regional events.

But the college also wants to “branch out and be of service to the local agricultural community,” Ferguson said.

It has a new event coordinator “who will start scheduling using our facilities as venues, not only for horse shows, but agricutlural-related events,” Ferguson said.

The facilities might serve as a site for FFA and 4-H events or host meetings for agricultural-related organizations, he said.

Ferguson outlined some future goals on the academic side. He’d like to see the equine studies program grow to more than 60 total students per year.

A new associate degree in racetrack business administration is in the works.

A graduate degree program is also being developed; one of the options would be to better prepare students for veterinary school if their future goal is a doctorate.

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