HARRISON – The Feb. 14 ribbon-cutting ceremony held at Mid Michigan College was more than the official completion of a project that was years in its planning, financing and construction. It was more than “the old” being replaced by “the new.” It was a valentine offered to the college’s future and to the futures of all those students who will reap the benefits of being educated in a facility where open, light-filled spaces allow for fluid movement and meaningful learning.
The verses inside the valentine were delivered to attendees with sincerity and a desire to acknowledge all persons and entities whose contributions had brought the college’s $13 million renovation to fruition. Delivering those verses were Mid Michigan College President Christine Hammond, Ph.D.
“This project has been transformational for our campus,” Hammond said. “We have updated all of our systems – much of the work is in the ceiling – and given our facilities a whole new look and feel. Integrated technology will support new approaches to instruction, and the more efficient use of space means we can increase enrollment on this campus up to 25%.”
She added that a project of such magnitude requires vision and courage, and counted the college as fortunate that its board of trustees possessed both. Hammond said it was especially important that the board voted to invest in the Harrison campus
“A $13 million investment to keep the Harrison campus vibrant,” she said. “Some of the project funding [$4 million] came from the college’s reserve funding – we dipped into our savings on this.”
Hammond said funding also is coming from municipal bonding, but that $2.5 million came from investment by the state through a grant from the Supplemental Budget Resolution in December 2018. She credited the support of state Rep. Jason Wentworth with that allocation of funds.
“I can attest that he understands the importance of higher education in rural communities like ours,” Hammond said. “Jason gets it. He knows that post-secondary education and economic development go hand in hand.”
Hammond’s address was followed by accolades from state Representative Jason Wentworth, who lauded those in attendance for their support of the project.
“It will serve students long after we’re all gone,” Wentworth said. “And that’s so important to this community.”
He described community awareness of the important role played by Mid, especially dual enrollment which allows students to jump start their college education while still in high school.
“Many skilled workers got their start at Mid, to brush up on the latest technologies,” Wentworth said. “When we celebrated the 50th anniversary a few years back, President Hammond reminded us that our founders wanted Mid to be a place where their sons and daughters could earn a degree while staying at home in their hometowns. And they wanted a college that was affordable and open to everyone. They wanted a college that would offer workers the chance to gain new skills on the job. They wanted a place that would enrich our communities – and over the years, Mid had done that and so much more.”
He noted that Mid continues to be an affordable option for higher education, where students can earn an associate degree for about one-third the cost of two years at a public university. Wentworth said that means Mid’s students were well-prepared to go on to a university without the burden of excessive debt.
“Mid adds to the economic vitality of our region,” he said. “A recent impact study demonstrated that, between the value of its payroll and the increased earning power of its graduates, Mid brings $60 million a year to our region. And students spend $5 million each year on apartments, cars, books. And that money is going into our local economy as well.”
Wentworth also drew attention to Mid’s new Veterans Resource Center, which provides an important space for returning veterans and student veterans in the community.
“And this campus now is one of the most energy-efficient campuses across the state,” he said. “That’s something you should be very proud of. Our students deserve a high-quality facility like this. They deserve us to invest in their education, especially in our hometowns.”
Chair Betty M. Mussell, MMC Board vice chair, noted the board’s gratitude to the many contractors/subcontractors whose work resulted in all the new elements encompassed in the project, including a new elevator which can accommodate larger loads than previously possible. She also thanked the architectural firm, construction manager, all the engineering consultants and the design firm whose work made the project a reality. Mussell also gave a “shout out” to the entire Mid team who patiently worked out of portable classrooms during the protracted construction process.
Mussell finished her talk with awarding of special bricks from the construction which had engraved nameplates attached and were planted with succulents. Those bricks went to Rep. Wentworth, Joe Meyers, MMC Director of Facilities; and Lillian Frick, MMC Vice President for Finance and Facilities.
Tom Olver, Associate Vice President of the Mid Foundation, thanked the hundreds of businesses and individuals who give back every year to help Mid students achieve their potential through quality education. He then offered special thanks to these individuals and businesses: Isabella Bank for sponsoring the main concourse; FTD Corp. of Gladwin for sponsoring the two Welding Labs; Mercantile Bank of Michigan for sponsoring the SOAR lobby; the tribute of naming of the Veterans Resource Center for Bill Case, one of the original founders of Mid Michigan Community College, by Case’s daughter; MidMichigan Health for sponsoring the new Fitness Center; Tim and Lori Lickley for the tribute of naming the Chemistry Lab for professor Jack Morse; Consumers Energy Foundation for sponsoring the new Student Life Office; the Camden Family of Companies for sponsoring three spaces, including a student lounge area in honor of MMC Trustee Carolyn Bay; Horizon Bank for sponsoring the SOAR Center entrance; plus additional spaces sponsored by other professional individuals.
“I’m also pleased to share that our beautiful, state-of-the-art conference room on the second floor will bear the name ‘Ester C.’ in memory of Ester C. Haynack,” Olver said. “With continued gratitude to Ed Haynack for his generous support of Mid Michigan College over so many years.”
The contributions represented more than organizations funding elements of the project. They also represented some highly personal connections; one of note was the honoring of Jack Morse made possible by Tim and Lori Lickley. It reflects the great respect between instructor and student that goes back to the early ’70s. These are the ties that help to ground students and which travel with them throughout their lives.
After Olver’s comments, it was time to head outside of the new South Entrance where Hammond and Wentworth, who did the actual big scissor-clipping of the Lakers blue ribbon, were flanked by Ed Haynack, Terry Petrongelli, Betty Mussell, Richard Allen Sr., Lillian Frick and Joe Meyers.
Following the ribbon cutting, guests were encouraged to tour the new facilities work, as well as the Technical Education Center which houses the metal shop, HRA shop, a classroom and computer lab; and the Center for Medical Imaging Studies which houses a classroom, training lab and radiography rooms. The tours were guided by some helpful and enthusiastic students, eager to show off their new school. In various areas of the building, instructors were on hand as well to explain some of the technical tools students have at their disposal. That included the simulations in the Nursing Lab. Its layout is reminiscent of a hospital ward and includes a multitude of situational simulations. Barbara Wieszciecinski, Dean of Health Sciences, Director of Nursing-Mount Pleasant campus, explained that the simulations enable students to experience rather realistic health crisis situations long before a live patient may need them to make a potentially life-saving care decision.
Kristine Stevens, MMC Director of Business and Industry Training, was in the CNA and Phlebotomy Lab, and she spoke of phlebotomy as a short-term time investment which can enable students to quickly get exposed to all areas of a hospital, allowing them experience in a variety of potential health areas.
Instructors also were demonstrating the Real Time Virtual Classroom technology which enables two-way monitor conversations. This telemetry is used for conducting classes for students in remote locations, including students zooming in on a laptop or desktop with a camera. The RTV currently is available at 13 different class sites, and it was noted that incorporating students from multiple sites can enable enough enrollment for a class to be offered.
Tagging along on one of the tours was architect Martin Ruiter who was intimately involved in the many changes made to the buildings. Ruiter, who is from the Lansing area, quietly maintained a low profile as he sought to hear firsthand reactions from students who are now using the renovated facility. Once his identity was revealed within his tour group, Ruiter became animated and his enthusiasm for the project and the changes he made bubbled up along with his obvious pride in a job thoughtfully well done. He wasted no time in pointing out various changes which brought natural light and space to areas which had previously been a seemingly “mile-long” narrow and windowless hallway flanked by classrooms. Now, interior windows share that expanded natural light with offices, the expansive bookstore, the library, the new fitness center, and properly furnished student lounge areas [no more having to sit on a cold brick window ledge].
It should be remembered that this facility is funded by property owners/residents in the Beaverton, Clare, Farwell, Gladwin and Harrison school districts, and that its expanded offerings are addressing the state and nation’s changing employment demands. Those offerings can be key to enabling a student – who may not be keen on investing a small fortune in a four-year degree – to become certified in a well-paying job with only a two-year, or less, time commitment.
And isn’t that open-handed gift – that offer of shared assistance with the goal of a promising future – what a valentine truly is?