Southeast Technical Institute is making a major capital investment to give its students an edge at succeeding in class, in life and in jobs.
The school is renovating the Mickelson Center and adding a Student Success Center that will have three success advisers, learning areas, career placement, counseling, tutoring and other services.
The expansion will help students become better prepared for the working world, said Tracy Noldner, vice president of student affairs and institutional research.
Business-wise, he expects the facility to be a key recruiting tool for prospective students.
“There will be great selling points,” Noldner said. “We want to be a little more proactive in how we assist students and retain them.”
General contractor for the $2.75 million project is G.A. Johnson Construction Inc.
Corey Johnson, the company’s president, said construction began April 1 and is to be finished by the end of July 2011. The work crew will range from 10 to 30 people at one time.
The project will be divided into five phases to minimize interference with classes and general operations in the Mickelson Center, Johnson said. Construction schedules will be adjusted to limit noise problems.
Johnson said the project is a good start to what he expects to be a successful year for his company.
“We’re coming out of our best year. We had a very, very good year through spring,” he said. “We have a ton of stuff coming up, and we’re bidding stuff every day. We’re looking at this being a very positive year, too. In a down economy, that’s great.”
In all, the project will encompass 35,000 square feet – some new, some existing.
School officials want the additions to have an open, inviting, bright atmosphere, said Todd Stone, Koch Hazard Architects’ project coordinator. He said architects tried to maximize the amount of natural light brought into the space and keep the colors light.
That involves incorporating more glass into the design, similar to other buildings on campus.
“The intent is to create lively spaces that the students can call their own,” Stone said.
The project includes the addition of an upper-floor mezzanine, relocation of the bookstore to the lower level of the commons, a new student lounge, relocation of the Adult Learning Center to the current bookstore site and expansion of the library to create the Student Success Center. The admissions and financial aid areas will be updated.
The additions also will include two conference rooms, a presentation room and computer-equipped student learning areas near the entrances.
Noldner said the renovation and expansion will create a one-stop location where a student can address all of his or her needs.
“It will be an open, helpful environment, very inviting,” he said.
Construction also will include a new front to the Mickelson Center, the oldest building on campus.
The changes aren’t just brick and mortar. Noldner said new students who haven’t accumulated college credits elsewhere will be required to take a student-success course that will help with such academic skills as how to take tests, take notes, deal with stress and manage time.
While program advisers will keep students informed about what classes and academic steps they need, success advisers will take a big-picture approach, helping students get tutoring, counseling and financial aid. Southeast Tech hired its three success advisers last fall.
The goal is to increase student retention, which Noldner said already is high, and help students succeed. The school has created an emergency student loan fund to help those who run into financial problems. The student government association contributed the funds. Loans are interest-free.
“Students may be going along well, and then they have a monetary problem,” Noldner said. “Their solution is to quit school.”