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New look, new options

Jed Carlson / The team of Pat Potswald, left, and Michael Johnson, second from left, battles Carter Manning, second from right, and Gage Nielsen, right, as Bryce Karlon watches at WITC in Superior on Thursday afternoon.

A fresh look and new options were showcased Wednesday during an open house at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College of Superior.

Students and staff gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly remodeled atrium of the school. The new décor earned a thumbs up from students.

"It’s a lot more comfortable down here now," said Angela Larson of Foxboro, a medical assistant program student. Fellow student Melissa Upchurch of Superior said she liked the colors, but suggested a net between sitting and game tables could keep ping pong balls from shooting across.

Upstairs, the $1.5 million remodel improved noise levels and carved out niches of privacy in the learning commons. The project added a glass wall between the library resource center and educational technology center, which formerly shared one large room divided by tall bookshelves. Private rooms were added in the educational technology center and student success center — niches of calm where students can take online classes or assessments, or staff and students can discuss results and future plans.

"It has made the work we do with students flow so much better," said adult basic education instructor Twila Sauve.

The school’s first family bathrooms were also added as part of the project, which was completed over the summer.

"There have been people here waiting for this day to come for a very, very, very long time," said Bonny Copenhaver, WITC vice president of academic affairs and administrator for the Superior campus.

When he walked into a design meeting presentation around Christmas time, Aaron Kelly of LHB realized how important the project was to the campus community. Instead of half a dozen people, there were about 200.

"It’s great to see that kind of participation," Kelly said.

Copenhaver thanked the students, staff and faculty for their contributions to the project.

"It was their vision that truly came to life," she said.

The new look is great, said Dave Minor, president and CEO of the Chamber of Superior/Douglas County and a member of the WITC board of trustees.

"You look around, this is kind of what students are looking for in a college, two year or four year," Minor said. But once the students walk into the classroom and work hand-in-hand with instructors, he said, that’s what makes the school hum.

"It’s truly all the faculty, it’s our staff that make this school really one of the best in the nation," Minor said.

Students at the Superior campus will have a new educational option beginning in January. WITC has signed an agreement with Nicolet College in Rhinelander to allow students to take the first steps toward a four-year college degree. Through Nicolet, every campus in the WITC district would offer two-year associate of arts and associate of science degrees.

"These classes would be the first two years of a transfer degree to a four-year school," Copenhaver said. "So this gives us the chance to bring in some students who really want to transfer to a four-year degree eventually but want to start at a smaller place." Students would start the program as a WITC student and spend the second year as a Nicolet student, but all classes would be taught on their WITC campus."

The agreement with Nicolet also opens a new avenue of funding for WITC students.

"There’s students who come to us they’re not eligible for financial aid without the access to a transfer program," said WITC President John Will. "Having this agreement gives students a chance to financially be able to go to college."