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FHSU continues building for the future




Several projects are underway at Fort Hays State University.

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Several projects are underway at Fort Hays State University.

The Center for Networked Learning, which opened the end of July, is housing the Department of Informatics, the Virtual College and the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technologies.

"Those entities and faculty were spread over four buildings," said Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning. "Part of the idea was to draw them together into one facility."

The new facility is approximately 35,000 square feet.

"The driving factor was some of the departments are out of room to expand," Cunningham said.

The Department of Informatics will occupy the first floor, and will contain three primary digital learning areas ­-- computer labs, a telecommunication lab and video/audio labs.

On the second floor, the Virtual College and CTELT will be given space for the "technological delivery of faculty's course content," Cunningham said.

The cost of construction was estimated to be approximately $10 million and was funded through university dollars and private donations, Cunningham said.

In addition, the plans for construction of a new residence hall is set to be finalized soon. That project for the time being is referred to as the Wiest Hall replacement project, which will do just that -- replace the Wiest residential hall on campus, which will be torn down.

The bid-date for that project will be mid- to late August.

"We analyzed the possibility of remodeling Wiest Hall into a new configuration that would be more desirable to students today," Cunningham said. "It wasn't realistic, and the cost was significant. Math tells us it's better to build a new facility than try to renovate."

Tisa Mason, vice president for student affairs, said the dorm has been in the planning stages for reconstruction for quite some time.

"I've been here for six years," she said. "It's been discussed as a long-range goal for quite some time. We just have been working through a lot of different issues (with other dormitories)."

The cost to renovate would have been significant because of structural problems and plumbing issues, Mason said.

The building will be used specifically for first-year students, and separated by learning community. Learning communities are based on interest. A group of 20 to 30 students will live together on the same floor and take one or two classes together.

"The intention is students will live and learn together," said Becky Peterson, director of residential life. "This will provide some of those innate study groups built into their living environment. This will also make it easier to build connections and form study groups."

This aims to make the transition to college easier, Peterson said.

"We have so much positive influence on students' lives," Peterson said. "We can help them feel connected, valued and really create a sense of community on campus."

All dormitory projects will be complete after the reconstruction of Wiest, but more projects might be in the future with the continued growth of the institution.

Mason said the university plans to grow on-campus enrollment to 7,500. It is hovering near 5,000. Of the 5,000, approximately 1,500 currently live on campus.

"We hope to continue to grow," she said. "Once we finish this phase, we'll be reassessing where we are. The campus has been very committed to providing on-going facility maintanance, keeping them up to date, adding new benefits to students. It really is focused around students' safety and creating very good learning environments."

The new structure will house the same amount of students, approximately 400. It is set to open in fall 2016.

The final capital project is to build an art and education facility. The design has yet to be finalized, but the building will house the entirety of the art department and the college of education, both of which are located in Rarick Hall.

"They have outgrown their space," Cunningham said. "There's no way they can expand within Rarick, and there's nowhere else to grow. By building a new facility, that would relieve some of the space issues and give room for some of the other departments to expand within Rarick."

The facility will be located south of the maintenance complex in what is called the band practice field.

"The building we're in has been there for about 70 years," said Paul Adams, interim dean of the College of Education and Technology.

"With the initiatives that are going on within the college in terms of expansion, we've outgrown our space."

Adams said the new building will give the department the opportunity to be more creative and modernized.

"We'll be able to bring together groups," he said. "Classrooms will be modernized. They'll be on the leading edge of technological innovations in the classroom."

The facility is set to open in fall 2017.