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M State's remodel is far more than a facelift

The community was welcomed out to view a new entry area, library, boiler system and nursing lab area at an open house Monday, Oct. 1 at the M State Wadena campus. Here students and community members are in an open area near the entry and college store. Those entering can't miss the new welcome desk front and center. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 4
Nursing instructor Patricia Ahlschlager led a tour of the new nursing lab at M State's Wadena campus Monday, while nursing students practiced techniques in the background. The new lab was more open and allowed for more versatility in learning compared to the previous layout, staff said. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 4
Nursing instructor Patricia Ahlschlager cuts a ribbon leading into the nursing lab area. Holding the ribbon are Jennifer Jacobson, Dean of Health Careers (from left) M State President Carrie Brimhall, Ahlschlager, Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger and Representative John Poston R-Lake Shore. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal3 / 4
Members of the community and region got to enter the bowels of the M State heating system and see the new boilers that replaced the ones installed in the early 1980s. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal4 / 4

Community leaders and interested parties saw why Minnesota State Community and Technical College is rated as one of the top college's in the nation Monday during a tour of the new and improved areas of the M State Wadena campus.

A recent report by WalletHub put the college system in sixth place out of 700 community colleges in the country largely because of the low tuition costs, high education outcomes and high career outcomes. And now thanks to a revamp of the nursing lab, the Wadena campus incorporates one of only two nursing simulators in the nation in their nursing program, an addition that puts those nursing students at the cutting edge of learning for their field, faculty said. Nursing instructor Patricia Ahlschlager shared that the simulator is a "shining star" in the new nursing area among other improvements there. The simulator allows faculty to sit in an adjacent room viewing the work of students and controlling the actions of a mannequin, including the voice.

Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger, was equally excited about the addition.

"I think it will grant a great opportunity for my staff as well as the students here to utilize that, maybe on off season hours at the school," Beiswenger said.

He shared how important the nursing program was to Tri-County Health Care as hundreds if not thousands of nursing students have gone through the programs at the Wadena campus and found careers at the Wadena hospital. In fact, his wife and daughter were both enrolled at the Wadena campus at one time.

The $270,000 nursing lab renovation was funded by private donors, including a lead donation from Tri-County Health Care of Wadena. The project was guided by the nursing program's faculty with input from their advisory committee.

Ahlschlager also showed off the new lab, training areas that mimicked the look of actual patient rooms at Tri-County Health Care and cameras that will allow for lessons to be recorded and reviewed by students looking to watch certain procedures again. She felt the major improvements in the nursing area would help recruit new students into a field that is in great need of more employees.

"I hope our numbers go sky high," Ahlschlager said of the nursing enrollment. "Give me all the students you can."

Students previously in the nursing program and currently working towards a degree commented that the improvements are dramatic.

"It's so much more open, I love it," said Sheri Greenwaldt, who was a bit jealous of the improvements having just graduated from the nursing program in 2017. She said the computers that allow students to do their own charting was a great technological improvement for the program.

Second-year student David Pietila was practicing his nursing skills during the open house and said seeing the before and after and getting to use the new area has been a great opportunity.

"The lab itself is a lot nicer, it's a lot closer, similar to the hospital setting," Pietila said.

"We haven't used the new sim-lab, but we're very much looking forward to it."

The tour was led by M State's Chief Financial Officer Pat Nordick, who showed off the new library, entry/welcome desk area, boiler room and nursing lab. Nordick shared about the whirlwind of work that had to take place this summer to make the renovations possible.

He showed off the inviting atmosphere of the new library, which sports more windows and reservable study rooms. The library was formerly an unused space. The Student Development Services/library renovation was funded with an $820,000 allocation from the 2017 Legislature.

The boiler work involved replacing the old boiler system with three new boilers. The new efficiencies helped the campus qualify for over $20,000 in energy rebates. ClimateMakers Inc. of Brooklyn Center was the contractor for the boiler project, financed through $715,000 in state asset preservation funds.

M State President Dr. Carrie Brimhall welcomed in the community and thanked the many people involved in making this remodel a success. The project was made possible through private donors, state funding and alumni. She said the improvements were made to this campus because it's a major asset to the community and region.

"We invested in this campus because it's strong and it's an integral part of our future," Brimhall said. She also thanked students for choosing M State college and bettering their futures. Nordick gave special thanks to the facility staff that worked over the summer to move 23 offices.

College staff welcomed in the community to walk into the new entry area and see for themselves how welcoming this new space is to anyone looking to improve their educations.