By JANET SOWLE, Editor
This year Mid Michigan Community College (MMCC) will experience several changes and three of them will offer students new opportunities.
“We have such an exciting year coming up,” Carol Churchill, MMCC President, said.
Top of the list is MMCC’s new 101,000 square foot Center for Academic and Business Studies in Mount Pleasant. In July, the college received word that its request for an $8.85 million appropriation from the State to unify its operations in Mount Pleasant had been approved. The proposed cost of the project is a little over $18 million. This will allow for the eventual closing of the Pickard Campus and for all classes in Mount Pleasant to be housed on the same campus.
“Consolidating that campus and unifying everything in Mt. Pleasant, to me, is the next great leap forward,” Churchill said. For the past four years, Churchill and her team have been working to make the campus unification possible. Combining the Mt. Pleasant facilities will make the Mt. Pleasant campus more efficient in several ways, according to Churchill.
The new center will house liberal arts, business, visual arts, and math programs. Plans also include dedicated math and language labs, an area for supplemental instruction, small group study areas, and a library. Groundbreaking for the new center should be held sometime in the spring with classes beginning there in Fall 2014.
Many people wonder what the Clare and Gladwin counties’ taxpayer’s responsibility is for the operations of the Mount Pleasant campus. The campus has been important to the college financially. Funds from there help to augment the funds from the Harrison campus as most students who take classes in Mount Pleasant pay out-of-district tuition, which is nearly double the in-district rate.
“This has given the school a significant revenue stream,” Churchill said. “But that doesn’t mean the Harrison campus has been ignored.”
The Radiography department in Harrison is currently undergoing a $1 million upgrade. MMCC’s goal was to give the students a place to go where they can hone their skills in a professional clinical setting. This gives them the opportunity to learn the soft skills of what it means to be an actual professional working in healthcare arena.
“We’ve tried to do our healthcare programs where concept is they learn their theory in the classroom setting, then they move to a lab that very much simulates what they’ll see out there,” Churchill said. “The only program that didn’t have that luxury yet was the Radiography program.” The building is scheduled to be open this fall.
More exciting news came to the campus in the form of a $717,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, which will be received over the next three years.
“What is so important about it is it really emerged from our business and industrial community,” Churchill said. “It was a very obvious need that they had. Launching this and serving the businesses’ needs in this region is just phenomenal.” The grant didn’t come easily either. It was a couple years in the making and the third, possibly fourth, grant written before the funds were found.
Michigan has downplayed the need for skilled manufacturing workers for at least a decade. Now mid MIchigan businesses find the need for these employees is growing and they are looking to MMCC to help satisfy those needs.
“There are going to be wonderful jobs out there,” Churchill said. “High paying jobs that area businesses cannot fill. This is going to be one way to help address that.” The grant will help develop a curriculum around plastics, which will contain many foundational parts to it so workers will be adept in any manufacturing business.
The grant will also create a series of activities that will be provided to the K-12 schools in the region to get their kids interested in this as a possibility.
“There’s a thing called a Plasti-Van,” Churchill said. “It’s a big old van that’s got a bunch of hands-on activities that kids can get in there and actually get their hands on the kinds of things they’ll be doing.” The van will be taken to local school systems to help raise awareness of the program and potential for the students.
“I just love it when we can work hand-in-hand so much with our community — the K-12s, the businesses — that’s what we’re here for,” Churchill said.