THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE SPRING 2012
Preparing a Workforce for Today and Tomorrow
by Lucy Webb
Founded to prepare teachers to serve American children, Keene State has a long history of educating workforces. Combining academic classes and field training, Keene Normal School dispatched teachers into countless communities.
Back then, vocational-technical programs, from wood shop to driver education, formed educational disciplines that were distinct from each other and eventually occupied two buildings on campus – Adams Tech and Butterfield. But the old programs became "Balkanized," according to Vice President of Finance and Planning, Jay Kahn.
Over time the Safety Studies, Architecture, and Sustainable Product Design and Innovation Programs had been building partnerships with outside organizations. Students in all three majors are gaining experience solving real-world problems through collaborations with local businesses and nonprofits. Keene State's biodiesel research project is a partnership with the City of Keene and the Monadnock Biodiesel Collaborative.
A few years ago, as it became clear that the old buildings could no longer serve the new, innovative programs, Melinda Treadwell, dean of Professional and Graduate Studies, other academic deans, faculty, administrators, staff, and Kahn directed a planning study for major renovations that would make the buildings work. The results showed the need for a long list of improvements, including energy-efficiency, new instructional equipment, infrastructure to support that equipment, and architectural integration into a campus that had grown around the antiquated facilities.
“How do you give a physical form to that evolution? … What kind of synergy will this building spawn?”
And as the list grew, it became clear that these fixes were really stopgap measures; the buildings would eventually need to be replaced with something better: More open space. Classrooms without obstructed views behind pillars. Carbon neutrality. Faculty offices clustered together to improve collaboration.
The programs are ready to cross-pollinate, to provide more opportunities for students and faculty from each program to work together.
The questions for a new building's design became, Kahn says, "How do you give a physical form to that evolution?" and "What kind of synergy will this building spawn?" After careful and collaborative planning KSC faculty, Physical Plant, and Finance and Planning arrived at a plan to eventually build a Technology, Design, and Safety (TDS) Center.
And then a bad economy created a new opportunity as projects like the TDS Center – bound to serve public good, effective at maintaining economic momentum – became targets of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or "stimulus money."
Thanks to lists and planning and pipe dreams, thanks to lots of hard work by faculty and administrative staff and outside consultants, the TDS Center was shovel-ready.
The new building will lend itself to hands-on, minds-on learning, according to Treadwell. Every classroom opens collaboration – removing both the physical and technological hurdles of Adams and Butterfield.
Wayne Hartz, an associate professor of Safety Studies, is pleased by the sudden ease of cross-pollination of ideas. The safety field, he says, has evolved – and employers want diverse perspectives and prevention through design.
The new building and recent programmatic changes fit with the changes to the field. "There's this tempo of opportunity," he says, "about diversity in its richest sense."
As if to confirm Hartz's observation, another collaborative opportunity arose during the planning phase, and that collaboration will also be housed in the TDS Center.
The Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM) brings together the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, the Keene School District, River Valley Community College, and Keene State in an effort to support advanced manufacturing in the Monadnock Region.
Each academic institution is developing new courses and using existing classes to support local manufacturing. In turn, local manufacturers offer training and mentoring to RCAM students. RCAM director, Norm Fisk, points out that without the program, the region was in danger of losing manufacturing employers who needed a more educated workforce.
And because RCAM connects with Keene State's Continuing Education Office, Fisk says, "We remove those hurdles for people to get back into school."
The work RCAM students do transfers between the three schools, which allows people who may have been out of academic life for a while to find their place on the ladder. The RCAM model, Fisk says, shifts from a seat-time model to ensuring that students have the skills and proficiencies they need.
Placing RCAM in the same building with Safety Studies, SPDI, and Architecture exposes matriculated Keene State students to people who are actually working in the industries they'll be going into, encouraging them to build connections and to solve real-world problems.
It also gets people who work in local companies back into the classroom, where they have opportunities to bolster their existing knowledge and potentially work toward degrees.
Fisk describes the partnership as an example of how "liberal arts colleges contribute to the immediate needs of the community in tangible, functional ways."
As helpful and timely as it was, the public funding Keene State secured for the TDS Center doesn't quite pay for the whole project (opportunities for giving). But it's an excellent start on a project that is necessary for Keene State and will prove vital for New England's workforce.
Groundbreaking took place during the summer of 2011. By the time you read this, construction will be in its final phases. (If that's the kind of thing that delights you as much as it does us, you should check out the construction webcam. It's particularly cool at dusk on days when there's welding.)
Partners in Safety
RCAM is not the only collaboration the TDS programs have up their collective sleeve. In fall 2011, Keene State announced a new partnership with the New Hampshire Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consultation program.
As part of the federal OSHA and through its partnership with Keene State, the group provides free, confidential initial consultations to businesses to ensure they're operating a safe and productive work environment.
By partnering with Keene State College, the consultancy can continue to provide critical services, with the additional involvement of students and faculty from Keene State's Safety Studies and Occupational Health Program.
And in addition to those opportunities for students and faculty, Keene State gains federal funding of more than $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Keene State also continues to direct an OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Manchester, NH, as it has since 1994, through a cooperative agreement between Keene State College and the U.S. Department of Labor. Over the past six years, the college has expanded its impact by establishing a network of 18 OSHA training centers throughout the New England region.
According to President Giles-Gee, "The college is investing in this field to build a skilled and adaptable workforce for the manufacturing industry, which will help our state, and ultimately, our country, to compete on the world stage."
by Kelly Ricaurte
How You Can Help Build a Safer, More Sustainable World?
Every gift to the TDS Center is important to its completion, and to the local and regional manufacturing community. You can support TDS in a variety of ways, long-term, visible, and at all levels. To discuss a gift, e-mail Ken Goebel, Director of Development or call him at 603-358-2378.
On January 30, Keene State College welcomed state legislators to discuss legislation under consideration this session. State legislators from Cheshire, Hillsborough and Sullivan Counties, including Speaker of the House William O'Brien, pictured, turned out to engage with KSC President Helen Giles-Gee and other community members.
TDS Center– Nuts and bolts of those whistles and bells