Rhoades Science Center

Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:36 pm | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley, VCSU President
Last week, VCSU appeared before the House Appropriations division on Education and Environment at the North Dakota Legislature in Bismarck. During the hearing, we provided updates on recent University accomplishments, discussed some unique campus needs, and also shared VCSU's budget request for the 2011-13 biennium. A major focal point of the presentation was the proposed renovation and expansion of Rhoades Science Center.

The Rhoades capital funding project was identified by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) as the second-highest priority among all new capital building projects proposed by the eleven campuses of the North Dakota University System. This high priority by the SBHE demonstrates the value and importance of this project and the long-term benefit it can provide in educating future generations of North Dakota students in the critically important science-based fields. We appreciate this strong show of support and ongoing commitment by the members of the State Board of Higher Education. Additionally, funding for the Rhoades Science project was included in Governor Dalrymple's executive budget recommendation that was released in December. Again, VCSU sincerely appreciates this inclusion in the Governor's budget and thanks him for his recognition of the long-term value of this project.

VCSU has experienced dramatic student enrollment growth during the past few years. This is highlighted with the 2010 enrollment being the largest in forty years, including the largest incoming freshmen class since 1988. At present time, our Fall 2011 new student applications indicate the strong growth trends are continuing. Academic programs housed in Rhoades Science Center have fueled much of the enrollment growth. For example, the two programs of Health Science and Fisheries & Wildlife Science had a total of 22 students in 2005, and as of Fall 2010 there are now 127 declared majors in those programs.

Other new initiatives such as the launching of VCSU's Great Plains STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Education Center as well as the Prairie Waters Education & Research Center, along with VCSU's participation in the Dakota Nursing Network are all fueling further interest and growth in science-related areas. When combining these developments with the overall student population growth and corresponding increases in general education courses, it adds much pressure to an already stressed Rhoades facility.

VCSU has not had a state-funded capital building project added to the campus since 1973 (Rhoades Science Center was built at that time). Much has changed with technology, laboratory space, safety requirements, research needs, and other facility issues during the intervening forty years, and it is imperative that we provide the very best opportunities for students to learn and succeed.

Many of the academic programs in Rhoades Science Center represent the very fields where our region is lacking in trained professionals. If we want to ensure we have enough science and math teachers, biologists, chemists, aquatic specialists, nurses, and students prepared to go on for professional schooling in fields such as dentistry, medicine, veterinary, nursing, pharmacy, or optometry (to name but a few.), it is important that we provide the proper environment and educational accessibility in which to serve those students. A renovated and expanded Rhoades Science Center is a vital part of the equation ensuring North Dakota's future workforce is prepared to keep building upon the state's current momentum.
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