Last updated: March 01. 2014 6:26PM - 1593 Views
By William Laney wlaney@civitasmedia.com

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LIMA — Rhodes State College is growing.

The college is adding building space. It is already working on plans in the future to expand to downtown Lima. The college is adding classroom space and adding courses of study.

Rhodes State College is growing in influence as it partners with more area high schools and businesses in an effort to help current and future students.

“We have a whole host of things now that we are going to be expanding that people are going to see coming out and more in the news and from the marketing side with regard to the growth and the Rhodes is growing,” Rhodes State College President Dr. Debra McCurdy said. “It is about as simple as those three words ‘Rhodes is growing.’ We are expanding and meeting workforce needs in the community on the industry side and the allied health side.”

New programming

In regard to new programming, McCurdy touched on plans for expanding the health and science, culinary arts, and hospitality and engineering offerings. Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Richard Woodfield said Rhodes is working with other regional institutions to offer programming from agriculture and agri-business.

“Our goals have been to look at food science from the field to the table and we have a number of initiatives and grants that look at food manufacturing, food delivery and food preparation,” Woodfield said. “We are looking all aspects from hospitality management to culinary arts to manufacturing. It is a really comprehensive approach.”

Last fall, the college headed a project where area business officials lead the discussion on what elements are needed for a practitioner in their field.

“Once we get approval and get the program launched we will be well tied to our industry partners and allow our constiuents to be well-educated and right into career pathway,” Woodfield said.

Officials hope to build on a program started a couple of years ago with Honda and funded by a grant from the Ohio Board of Regents. The program matched students with local employers and “really became a wonderful beginning for us at Rhodes and we are subsequently expecting a second grant to come through and that grant would allow to really take a cooperative and experienced-based education to all of the technical programs on the campus. We already see that with health and nursing and now we will be able to expand into the manufacturing sector.”

He also discussed a new pharmacy technician program where a student can enter the workforce after taking one intensive semester of training.

McCurdy and Woodfield discussed a new cybersecurity program. They also discussed Rhodes receiving a Department of Justice grant to train 400 individuals on intervention and prevention skills.

“We are looking to build an institute for training for intervention and safety on campuses and businesses as well,” McCurdy said. “This has worked very well as we partner with a number of entities to train individuals on how does one secure a business, campus and how to train employees to prepare for an intruder or in an active shooter situation.”

Postsecondary option

McCurdy said they are meeting the needs of future students as their outreach program extends to high schools and high school students.

“We have also expanded our postsecondary relationships with the high schools and so we have well over 800 students in high school taking classes at Rhodes State College,” McCurdy said. “It fits with the concept that came out of the Ohio Board of Regents a couple of years ago, which is the senior to sophomore concept that they would have taken enough classes in high school they would have taken enough credits to be almost sophomores.”

Rhodes has a postsecondary option with 25 to 30 high schools with students earning nearly as many credits as full-time college students. McCurdy said by earning the credits, which are guaranteed to transfer to colleges throughout the state, is “a tremendous boost to the students and the parents.”

University officials are even seeing an upswing with high school students taking classes during the summer at Rhodes to get a jump on their college careers.

Building improvements

In January, the college celebrated the grand opening of a 9,000-square-foot Keese Hall auditorium addition where officials expect to have most of their college events, which in the past they had to move to venues off-campus. Most major events, except for commencement ceremonies, will be held on campus.

McCurdy also touted another expansion, which included the addition of 16,000 square feet for five classrooms and three offices with the classrooms able to sit 75 students “giving the college tremendous capacity in regard to offer classes at a range of times that we normally would not have been able to because we simply would have been out of space or the space might have been utilized” already. She said this permits the college to have a more flexible class offering schedule.

Plans call for making improvements to tech labs as well as replacing the heating and air-conditioning units along with replacing the roof at a cost of about $1.8 million. Other projects include sidewalk improvements, repairing and improving bathrooms.

“We are doing some good maintenance and repair that is long overdue,” McCurdy said. “We previously have done some parking lots and some lighting projects that have helped tremendously.”

She said the 12-foot wide sidewalk along Keese Hall will be lighted, which will fit into the college’s plans to add alarms and security systems for the campus indoors and outdoors as officials “work to make the campus more secure for faculty, staff and students.”

The university’s three-year capital improvement plan includes demolishing some central downtown buildings to “optimally” construct a 75,000-square-foot Center for Health Science Education & Innovation.

McCurdy said the primary focus was to have a building between Lima Memorial and St. Rita’s Medical Center as well as in close proximity to Lima Senior High School as well as Lima Central Catholic. She said city, county and local hospital officials support the development and construction of the center.

Business Vice President and Treasurer Chris Schmidt said plans call for demolishing buildings “to create a beautiful asset and it will take a few years before we have a grand opening.” A three-year timeline includes 12 to 18 months for property procurement with finished construction in 2017.

The move is to meet the demand for more nurses and others in the health fields.

“We are growing, we are changing, we are changing to meet the demands and the needs we are seeing in the community,” McCurdy said. “You cannot argue with the economic value, of the education we deliver, the quality of our faculty. We are really seeing a change in the college and the outreach to the community has made a huge difference. We are doing some good things at the college.”

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