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M State staying strong as it turns 50 in Wadena

It's back to school for college students.

M State - Wadena started fall semester classes on Monday, Aug. 22, and is in its second and last year hosting the high school while the new building is under construction. It is also the year M State will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Dr. Peter Wielinski, provost at M State, said that enrollment has held steady even with two programs on hiatus: Telecommunications and Industrial Maintenance.

Program advisory groups show the college what is required for particular fields in the workforce so they can update the curriculum.

"So much is going digital," Wielinski said of the telecommunications program.

Wielinski said that three new programs are also in the works, and they will be announced before the end of the academic year.

"They're definitely programs that afford employment opportunity. There's a need for them," Wielinski said.

M State has some new features this year. The incubator lab is finished. It is a classroom space constructed with flexibility in mind to pilot academic programs or support services which can then find a more permanent place.

"If we wanted to partner with somebody who provided job placement services, we could bring them in and we could easily configure that space," Wielinski said. "If we wanted to partner with somebody who wanted to run cooking classes in there, we could configure the space for that as well."

Wielinski also said that students are enjoying enhancements to the campus since the tornado, such as a new learning center and adult basic education center and study areas.

"There is a countertop study area that's been set up specifically for students to be able to come in and plug their computers right into our system," he said.

Wielinski said that while M State continues to attract young students, there are also older workers going back to school to retrain for new fields because of the economy.

"We offer certificates, one-year degrees, two-year degrees, so that people can very quickly come in, get retrained, get back out in the workforce," he said.

Wielinski also said there are more part-time students because of the economy.

"I'm assuming that this is due to people working - needing to work - part time jobs or full time jobs," he said, adding that this has been the case over the last 30 years.