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Making room for the future

The massage therapy and technology departments at the Wadena campus of Minnesota State Community and Technical College underwent extensive overhauls over the summer. The renovations followed a major makeover of the cosmetology department that began nearly two years ago.

The face lift makes the class rooms more effective for student learning and more visually appealing for campus tours, said Paul Drange, enrollment manager.

"It's a huge plus for us," he said. "From a recruiting perspective, anytime we can ... improve not only the look but the access to technology ... it produces more qualified and better trained graduates."

The massage therapy department expanded over the summer to meet the needs of the increasingly popular major. The program began in 2004 with 11 students in a "little, tiny room" and now has 33 students, said Jody Olson, director of massage therapy.

The renovation focused on accomplishing three different goals, Olson said. The first was to create a more open work area where student body mechanics were not compromised during practice massages. Olson estimated the massage therapy room is three to four times larger than the program's previous space. The students appreciate the new work area, she said.

"It really was a huge transition," said Michelle Roers, student. "They got rid of everything and opened it up. I think it's really nice."

A redesign of the area to increase the safety and comfort of clients who receive massages during the spring clinics was another goal, Olson said. Profits from the clinics helped to fund the renovation project.

The final goal was to implement video technology projecting the instructor's technique demonstrations onto a television screen, she said.

"[The students] are able to better view the fine skill techniques that maybe they weren't able to see before," Olson said.

A second phase of the renovation is in the works and will include a shower facility for the program's spa treatments, including salt glows, mud wraps, seaweed wraps and paraffin dips, she said.

The massage therapy program is heavy on hands-on education and the students perform massages on one another almost every day, she said. Students also take lecture courses including kinesiology and pathophysiology.

"I'm really excited and really passionate about teaching them to be exceptional in this field," Olson said.

The members of the technology department are also interested in teaching students to be exceptional in their field, according to instructors.

The technology department redesigned lab space to better accommodate students and new technology, said Les Schwartz, telecommunications instructor.

MSCTC strives to keep up with new technology as best as it can, he said.

"Change happens so fast in our industry," Schwartz said.

Some of the new equipment is for the voice and video over Internet protocol certificate MSCTC-Wadena is offering this year, he said.

In addition to some new equipment, all of the labs have new floors, new ceiling tile, repainted walls and new back wood to mount equipment, he said. The students helped with some of the work. They put up new cable racks, ran wires and labeled equipment in the telecommunications lab, he said. They also helped set up equipment in the computer networking lab. Schwartz said the students will do more projects when it gets to that point in the curriculum.

"[We're] trying to include the students as much as possible in projects," he said.

Several instructors did a lot of the renovations over the summer, Schwartz said. Their work included scraping old glue off the walls, emptying out the rooms and painting.

The instructors are maintaining the bonds they formed during the summer renovation through re-configured office space, said Jerry Leverson, computer systems electronics instructor. Some offices used to be located where the newly expanded massage therapy program is, but are now grouped in the same area.

"We can communicate a lot better, keep tabs on each other better," he said. "We feel more like a department."

The lesson in bonding is one they would like to extend to students, according to Janet Johnson, computer and network technology instructor. One of the goals of the renovation was to have the telecommunications and computer network students work more closely and learn about each other's equipment, she said. That model is where the industry is leading.

"To get the students more comfortable working with each other, whether telecom or computer," she said. "And so far it's working. They're getting respect now for each other's disciplines."

Schwartz said this is a good time to pursue a career in technology due to an aging work force.

"There's going to be a shortage, especially in telecom," he said. "It's a great time to get in the industry. [There's] lots of openings."

Just down the hall from the technology department, cosmetology continues to shine with its recent renovations.

The facial room has new lounges, steamers and towel warmers. The redesigned hair styling lab features new work stations, free-standing sinks, free-standing dryers and new hydraulic chairs. The manicure room was equipped with new tables and client and operator chairs. And new floors were installed throughout the hairstyling and manicure area.

"It's totally different and new," said Darlene Weibye, head of the cosmetology department.

The previous room design created a crowded working environment, she said. The redesigned room is better for the approximately 60 cosmetology students as well as the clients who use the hairstyling, manicure and facial services.

"It's makes it more modern," Weibye said. "More like a salon setting."

She said response from clients and students to the new space has been very positive.

"They absolutely love it," Weibye said.