By Tim Leeds
Montana State University-Northern may soon have its first new building on campus since 1983.
The university is moving forward on a proposal to build an Applied Technology Center (ATC) with new industrial labs, classrooms, research and development areas and office spaces. Renovations to Brockmann Center would create multi-media classrooms, a video conference room and office space for the business development programs on campus.
Additional parking will also be created, with a parking lot between the ATC and the existing farm mechanics building.
As private funding becomes available to complete the comprehensive project, a parking lot would be added to the southeast of the new building with an entrance off of 13th Street, as well as creating more lab areas and classrooms and office space.
Dean of the College of Technical Sciences Darryl Thackeray said part of the reason for building the center would be to integrate different programs in the college, as well as tying it to other programs at the university.
Thackeray said MSU-Northern is already unique in tying its technical programs into other programs at the university, and the centralized ATC would help increase these partnerships, as well as partnerships with industry. He said he doesn't know of any other institution that offers business minors with their technical programs, or minors in technical areas with their business programs. He said the centralized technical center and the business incubation offices would tie the programs together even more closely.
Greg Jergeson, director of grants and sponsored research at the MSU-Northern Foundation, said the center would be multi-disciplinary. He said there is almost no circumstance where only a single discipline is involved in a business solution. With the central location and the design of the labs for the ATC, he said, students from different disciplines will be brought to a location to work together.
Jergeson said the project would allow MSU-Northern to teach students skills that fit the changing business world better. He said modern businesses require a lot of people, each with a variety of skills. He said MSU-Northern programs generate graduates that have a variety of skills, satisfying the needs of employers and businesses.
Chancellor Mike Rao said that building the center would acknowledge that there has been a niche for MSu-Northern for 50 years or more in the technical and work force areas of education, and also to acknowledge that despite some challenges due to a flat and declining population base, the technical college is an area that continues to grow.
Rao said that it is important to continue building on the strength of the College of Technical Sciences. He said one strength has been the solid communication and mathematics backgrounds in these degrees on the baccalaureate level.
Rao said designing the ATC with an electronic loop around the center will also allow access to Internet band width at any point in the building. He said one of the biggest purposes in doing this is to break down geographic barriers and allow more contact with many partners, in business as well as in education.
Thackeray said the center would provide a new way to put technology out to the state. He said much of the coursework at MSU-Northern is unique, such as curriculum at the agricultural mechanics program. Thackeray said the ATC will allow the college to show its coursework out to other institutions.
Thackeray said it will also allow access to the coursework for agriculture producers in the state. He said farmers and ranchers will be able to sit at their computers at home, watching how to tune up a diesel engine or set an advanced seeder over the Internet.
Jergeson said the new center would be "wired to the gills." One function of this, he said, would be to provide continuing education ability to the university's graduates, wherever they are and whoever they are working for.
Editor's note this is a three-part series looking at MSU-Northern's new tech center. The second and third parts will be in Monday's and Tuesday's papers