There will be an open house at Southwestern Michigan College’s Niles Campus Saturday morning, Aug. 16, to show off this summer’s second phase of a $3 million renovation.
The first phase, unveiled Aug. 10, 2013, ushered in a fresh look with a new Student Service Center, SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) science labs and created a faculty/student commons.
“In phase one, we took care of the most urgent things, with an updated place we can serve students, a place where they can relax and study, a place where they can access faculty and ultra-modern science classrooms,” said Dr. Stacy Horner, dean of the Niles Campus.
“Those were top-priority. Now we’re further expanding that to all-over common areas, physical education space and we’re creating a community room for different Niles organizations to meet. Phase two creates a second student gathering place similar in feel to that of the Student Activity Center on the Dowagiac campus.”
“The new gathering place will be more intimate, like a living room, where the commons is like a grand room,” Vice President for Student Services Eileen Crouse said.
Prospective students can talk to faculty, apply, take their placement testing and register for classes at the Aug. 16 open house from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Niles Campus, opened in 1991, is located in Cass County’s Milton Township at 33890 U.S. 12, east of downtown at M-60.
A 1999 expansion doubled instructional space, followed two years later by the adjacent M-TEC facility for advanced technology programs named for former state Sen. Harry Gast, R-St. Joseph.
SCALE-UP classrooms facilitate student teamwork and instructor movement between groups. There is no separate lab class. “Lectures” are class-wide discussions, with students making observations while working on engaging problems.
Staff and faculty office spaces radiate from the commons like spokes so academic support and student services are right where students need them.
The futuristic commons, with pods of big chairs beneath overhanging lights, flows into a learning center with banks of computers, tutoring and the science lab.
SMC, celebrating its 50th anniversary Sept. 20, was the enrollment growth leader among Michigan’s 28 community colleges a year ago, helped by a 24.6-percent increase in Niles Campus credit hours.
Students can earn an associate in arts degree that can be transferred to a four-year program; a two-year business degree; and complete pre-nursing classes at the Niles Campus.
SMC also offers advanced technology programs at the Niles Campus, including welding, mechatronics and precision machining.