Universities, colleges consistently constructing changes - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Universities, colleges consistently constructing changes

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Rendering courtesy of WVU Tech Rendering courtesy of WVU Tech
Photo courtesy of Marshall University Photo courtesy of Marshall University
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At West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery, the landscape is always changing.

As funding comes in, campuses construct the new and renovate the old to keep students satisfied.

At Tech, for example, Campus Executive Officer Carolyn Long said Student Success Center repurposed the third floor of the school's library and offered separate, longer hours for students during finals week for study space.

Wi-fi for every classroom is nearly complete, along with new tile and carpet in some of the classrooms and campus paving. A new outdoor basketball court is on the way where a dorm used to be, and alumni of the school currently are raising money to install a welcome wall.

Long said they're trying to find the space they have and use it effectively, to enhance the student experience.

She said it's important that students have a say in how the space is used, and in a recent project students researched, studied and surveyed resulted in the plans for the basketball court.

"They asked for very practical things that also we felt comfortable doing," Long explained. "The basketball court is first, and then a pavilion and a picnic table under it; that will be the next thing we try to find funding for."

Adrienne King, director of relations and communications for the WVU-Tech, said several baby steps add up to big differences on campus, and it's that way for most schools, according to officials with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill said there are no new initiatives for new buildings this year, but several projects are under construction — many of which have been in the works for a while because of the way they're funded.

HEPC Vice Chancellor for Finance Ed Magee said construction happening now is the result of two major school bond issues passed by the West Virginia Legislature in 2009 and 2010. Ashley Schumaker, HEPC senior director of board and public relations, explained that bond proceeds have a schedule, and they must be used by a certain time, so construction schedules parallel that, from the planning stage to the ribbon cutting stage.

Hill said dormitories often are at the top of a school's list for updates because students expect a certain quality of living.

"We do see some of the newer facilities that are much more like apartment-style living than the old, traditional, four students in a very small room situation," Hill said. "Colleges are competing for students now, and students demand a certain type of facility, so we do have the opportunity in some institutions to try to attract them."

Hill said Marshall University is constructing an engineering building right now because the school has grown, but lots of technology has to be built into that kind of a facility to offer the curriculum.

Technology centers are complete at West Virginia Northern Community College as well as at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, and two more are on the way, in Fairmont and in South Charleston.

And at West Virginia University, the Sunnyside property has been purchased for the site of a large, modern housing complex with a commercial grocery store on the ground floor and laundry access. Hill said those are the types of things that make a facility geared more toward the community.

"Morgantown has big issues with traffic, and it turns out there's no  place to grocery shop in that community, so you have to get in the car to drive to the grocery, and that just adds to the traffic," Hill explained.

He said the state has thousands of buildings to look after when all the four-year colleges and community and technical colleges are combined.

Magee, who spent time working at Shepherd University before coming to the HEPC, said institutions do an overall good job of monitoring potential damages to facilities.

Some staff members are dedicated just to looking at facilities across the state all the time, and the HEPC also has a deferred maintenance schedule to be sure the buildings don't get run down.

Magee said there is a statewide group of facilities administrators who met to discuss facilities issues .

Hill said it keeps everyone busy.

"With many of these projects going on across the state, it's a lot to keep up with," he said. "We certainly have quite a volume of facilities work going on at the same time."