Mitchell Tech marks progress with new student lounge area completed
Mitchell Technical College rolled out major upgrades on Tuesday that will likely be popular with students when classes resume this fall.
The college has renovated the student lounge area at the front of the Technology Center on the campus, which was previously almost exclusively tables and chairs. The lounge space now features varied options for seating, pool and foosball tables, large TV screens and a jukebox. The area is wired to allow students to plug in computers or stream apps to the TVs and be as flexible as possible, as technology continues to evolve, school officials said.
The project was aided by a $300,000 zero-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan Program via Mitchell-based Central Electric. Central Electric General Manager Ken Schlimgen presented Mitchell Tech President Mark Wilson and college officials with a check on Tuesday for the project.
Under the REDL Program, USDA provides zero-interest loans to local utilities, which they pass through to local businesses for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. In this case, Mitchell Tech repays Central Electric for the loan directly, and Central Electric repays the USDA. The loans require an up to 20 percent match from intermediaries, like Central Electric.
In 2019, the Mitchell Board of Education approved the loan agreement to help fund capital projects, and the loan can be renewed for up to 10 years to pay off.
Scott Fossum, the college’s dean of student success, said the ideas for the lounge came from a focus group that involved Mitchell Tech students to fine-tune what they wanted to see in the space. His only lament, he said, is that many of those students have since graduated. The lounge area was designed with the assistance of Puetz Design and Build, of Mitchell, with Jessica Hoogers, a computer-aided design and drafting technician and a 2015 Mitchell Tech graduate leading the way, Wilson said.
“As we kept working through the project, we kept the students involved with what we were planning and I think they appreciated that,” Fossum said.
Mitchell Tech Vice President John Heemstra said the intent of the USDA funding is to benefit rural communities, and improve the quality of life and development of both the college and Mitchell.
The new area is part of Mitchell Tech’s strategic planning effort, which was rolled out in 2017. One of the priorities was to ensure that campus facilities were student-centered, accessible and conducive to learning and an objective called for looking at constructing student areas for fitness, studying, gym space and allowing 24/7 access.
Wilson said the installation of a 24/7 student fitness space is the next goal for the building, with the doors to the fitness area connecting to the newly renovated lounge area. He said if the schedule works out and it is cost-effective, construction work could begin as early as the school’s winter break at the end of 2020.
Another future goal is to make the building available to students on a 24-hour basis. For now, when school is in session, the building is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The campus lounge upgrades are part of the continued efforts to improve the usability of space on the Mitchell Tech campus. This summer in the Campus Center building, the former bathrooms in the commons area were moved down a nearby hallway, expanding the space for dining and studying. The nearby Oak Room fine dining room, which is the center of the Mitchell Tech’s Culinary Academy offerings, was also expanded and renovated.