Wake Tech RTP Campus
Over 90 business leaders from across the region gathered at RTP Headquarters this week to hear a presentation on the new campus of Wake Technical Community College. Wake Tech, as we commonly call it, is a thriving institution now preparing to establish their 8th major location which will be on RTP’s doorstep. For a region that prides itself on educational capital, and for an economy that is in need of transformation through workforce development, this couldn’t come at a better time.
Speakers at the presentation included Dr. Stephen Scott, President of Wake Tech, and Jay Smith of O’Brien Atkins Associates, serving as Master Planner. Dr. Scott gave an informative overview of Wake Tech’s network of campuses, emphasizing that it is a rare opportunity to design a new campus from scratch. Although with the college’s burgeoning demand for classes, he has now had that privilege twice in his career as president. Attendance at Wake Tech is over 65,000 students per year. About two-thirds of those students are enrolled in continuing education courses, and around 15,000 already have a bachelors degree or higher. This past fall, there were nearly 10,000 students on waiting lists because the classes they needed were full. Lifelong learning is certainly alive and well!
Dr. Stephen Scott, President of Wake Technical Community College
In 2008, Wake Tech purchased 86 acres of undeveloped land in Morrisville. The site offers a blank slate for the new RTP campus, oriented towards continuing education and technology training. This strategic location is at the intersection of 540 and NC 54, in the heart of Perimeter Park, and within a 5-10 minute drive for anyone in the Research Triangle Park.
Once developed, Wake Tech will have a greater capacity to partner with corporate clients in RTP and develop customized course offerings for their employees. The attendance and engagement at Tuesday’s event clearly shows the interest on the part of RTP companies in leveraging such partnerships. Donna Rhode, Vice President, Centers of Excellence of Cisco Systems Global Sales Operations, was one of the participants who praised the efforts to connect the local workforce with the development needs of RTP companies. As she points out, a technologically-skilled workforce is a key factor in attracting and retaining companies, here in the Research Triangle Park and across the region.
Donna Rhode, Vice President, Centers of Excellence of Cisco Systems Global Sales Operations
Although Wake Tech has always been a commuter school, they do pay close attention to designing true campuses. The RTP campus will be no different. The intention is to cluster buildings around gathering spaces, rather than parking lots. Through structured parking and careful land management, the RTP campus will be designed with walkability and community in mind. All facilities will be LEED Certified, as has been Wake Tech’s practice across the board in recent years.
New learning facilities that meet the demand of students and businesses, all in an attractive and sustainable setting. How soon will this get here? Master planning and stakeholder engagement will continue throughout the summer. A bond referendum is expected in Spring or Fall 2012. Dr. Scott’s goal is to hold the first classes at the RTP campus in 2015.
An exciting aspect of Tuesday’s session was the rich and active discussion that followed the core presentation. Attendees offered numerous suggestions on what type of programs should be offered at the Wake Tech RTP campus. Many were in keeping with the strengths of RTP’s industries: Biotechnology, Software, Gaming, Clean Tech. Other ideas were based on locational advantages: Aviation, considering the proximity to RDU; or the resources that the RTP campus itself will offer: Green Building, Ecosystems.
Further discussion revolved around potential facilities and other possible partnerships. Public meeting facilities, for example, were a popular idea for encouraging collaboration among business and education groups. Teacher certification and K-12 enrichment programs would be an excellent means to integrate our educational institutions. And on-site services such as child care, dining and recreation could further enhance the student experience.
Wake Technical Community College will continue to engage students, faculty, local officials and the general public in its master planning process. If you have input of your own for the new campus, whether it concerns campus design or course offerings, be sure to leave your comments below.