GRAND RAPIDS — Last year, renovations began on a historic building in downtown Grand Rapids; this fall it will welcome Western Michigan University students.
The Graduate Center – Downtown will have a full roster when it opens for classes in August.
The Center, located at 200 Ionia Ave. SW, offered a few classes last spring and this summer, but will truly fill its classrooms with the upcoming fall session. The downtown center joins the Graduate Center – Beltline, at 2333 East Beltline S.E., as a facility providing Grand Rapids residents with over two dozen WMU graduate and professional degree opportunities.
“The expansion is important to the downtown area because many of the people we serve are located in the area,” said Dr. Jim Schultz, regional director, Grand Rapids. “With our master’s in business and other master’s courses, our programs are appealing to business professionals in the area.”
Included in the master’s and other graduate level programs, the downtown campus offers business administration (M.B.A.), career and technical education (Ed.D.), counselor education and counseling psychology (M.A.), education leadership (Ed.D.) and human resources development (M.A.).
The East Beltline and downtown centers are similar. The differences exist in technology updates and in programs that will make the move downtown.
“We have been full at the Beltline campus for some time now, so it will give us some more elbow room,” Shultz said. “We will also be able to start some programs that have previously only been offered in Kalamazoo.”
With the move of both the M.B.A. and the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology programs, WMU has devoted significantly more space for the counseling program to be housed in the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services at the downtown center.
With this expansion, master’s students will be able to obtain the necessary practical experience with real clients in order to meet requirements for various licenses and certifications.
While a move downtown is strategic for the university, it is not new. The university was downtown, in fact, before establishing its East Beltline campus. “We used to be in the old Grand Rapids Junior College — back when it was a junior college — main building, and before that we were at 2 Fountain St.,” Shultz explained.
The new downtown campus offers the Grand Rapids area more than classes; it also offers conferencing capabilities to downtown and area businesses. Twenty meeting rooms are available at the facility, including a 3,960-square-foot hall, which can seat 400 or more guests for dinner.
Adjacent is the Commons, a distinctive setting for social engagements such as wedding receptions, retirement dinners, fundraisers or other gala events.
“Ninety percent of our students work full time so we offer classes when they can take them, at night and on the weekends. While our classes are offered at those times, that leaves the days open and our conference center un-used. During the fall, winter and spring our conference center will be open to businesses and area residents to use,” Schultz said.
The center can accommodate specialized activities: the President’s Suite works well for high-level meetings; a computer lab offers 30 networked computers; Cyber Café features Internet access and café-style seating; and La Bistro Bella Vita can provide catering.
“With a difference of 12 years in development between the Beltline and downtown campus, we have had the opportunity to technologically update our facility,” Shultz noted. “This way, if a business is looking to give a high-tech presentation to a large group, our facilities are available.”
He said top-quality resources enhance business conferences, workshops and meetings with amenities including state-of-the-art meeting rooms and Internet access, professional furnishings, sophisticated audiovisual technology, computer technology and interactive video teleconferencing.
Fax machines, copiers and phone service are available. Social event requirements such as a dance floor, staging and decorative accents can also be easily accommodated.
Schultz said at the present time the downtown campus will offer graduate and master’s programs exclusively. However, he said, over time WMU looks to bring more classes from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids. “This way people who have to travel to Kalamazoo for specific classes will no longer have to do so and can just come downtown.”
Students will also have local access to all of the talent, expertise and experience that has earned WMU its reputation. In addition to the several full-time faculty on staff at the graduate center, students also learn from other WMU professors and instructors who travel to Grand Rapids to teach.